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Title: Naturalism And Religion
Author: Otto, Rudolf, 1869-1937
Language: English
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                         Naturalism And Religion


                             Dr. Rudolf Otto

           Professor of Theology in the University of Göttingen

                              Translated by

                            J. Arthur Thomson

        Professor of Natural History in the University of Aberdeen


                           Margaret R. Thomson

                      Edited with an Introduction by

                      The Rev. W. D. Morrison, LL.D.

                         Williams & Norgate Ltd.

                  38 Great Ormond Street, London, W.C.1



Chapter I. The Religious Interpretation Of The World.
   What is Distinctive in the Religious Outlook.
Chapter II. Naturalism.
   What is Distinctive in the Naturalistic Outlook.
   The True Naturalism.
   Goethe’s Attitude to Naturalism.
   The two Kinds of Naturalism.
   Aim and Method of Naturalism.
Chapter III. Fundamental Principles.
   How the Religious and the Naturalistic Outlooks Conflict.
   Mystery : Dependence : Purpose.
   The Mystery of Existence Remains Unexplained.
   Evolution and New Beginnings.
   The Dependence of the Order of Nature.
   The “Contingency” of the World.
   The Real World.
   The Antimony of Our Conception of Time.
   The Antimony of the Conditioned and the Unconditioned.
   The Antimony of Our Conception of Space.
   The Recognition of Purpose.
   Teleological and Scientific Interpretations are Alike Necessary.
Chapter IV. Darwinism In General.
   The Development of Darwinism.
   Darwinism and Teleology.
   The Characteristic Features of Darwinism.
   Various Forms of Darwinism.
   The Theory of Descent.
   Haeckel’s Evolutionist Position.
   Weismann’s Evolutionist Position.
   Virchow’s Position.
   Other Instances of Dissatisfaction with the Theory of Descent.
Chapter V. Religion And The Theory Of Descent.
   The Problema Continui.
Chapter VI. Darwinism In The Strict Sense.
   Differences of Opinion As To the Factors In Evolution.
   Natural Selection.
Chapter VII. Critics Of Darwinism.
   Lamarckism and Neo-Lamarckism.
   Theory of Definite Variation.
   De Vries’s Mutation-theory.
   Eimer’s Orthogenesis.
   The Spontaneous Activity of the Organism.
   Contrast Between Darwinian and Post-Darwinian Views.
Chapter VIII. The Mechanical Theory Of Life.
   The Conservation of Matter and Energy.
   The Organic and the Inorganic.
   Spontaneous Generation.
   The Mechanics of Development.
Chapter IX. Criticism Of Mechanical Theories.
   The Law of the Conservation of Energy.
   Criticisms of the Mechanistic Theory of Life.
   Virchow’s “Caution”.
   Preyer’s Position.
   The Position Of Bunge and Other Physiologists.
   The Views of Botanists Illustrated.
   Constructive Criticism.
   The Constructive Work of Driesch.
   The Views of Albrecht and Schneider.
   How all this affects the Religious Outlook.
Chapter X. Autonomy Of Spirit.
   Naturalistic Attacks on the Autonomy of the Spiritual.
   The Fundamental Answer.
   Individual Development.
   Pre-eminence of Consciousness.
   Creative Power of Consciousness.
   Activity of Consciousness.
   The Ego.
   The Unity of Consciousness.
   Consciousness of the Ego.
Chapter XI. Freedom Of Spirit.
   Feeling, Individuality, Genius, and Mysticism.
   Mind and Spirit. The Human and the Animal Soul.
   No Parallelism.
   The Supremacy of Mind.
   “The Unconscious”.
   Is there Ageing of the Mind?
Chapter XII. The World And God.


It is a remarkable and in some respects a disquieting fact that whilst
rival ecclesiastical parties are engaged in a furious and embittered
debate as to the precise shade of religious instruction to be given in
public elementary schools, the thinking classes in modern Europe are
becoming more and more stirred by the really vital question whether there
is room in the educated mind for a religious conception of the world at
all. The slow silent uninterrupted advance of research of all kinds into
nature, life, and history, has imperceptibly but irrevocably,
revolutionised our traditional outlook upon the world, and one of the
supreme questions before the contemporary mind is the probable issue of
the great struggle now taking place between the religious and the
non-religious conception of human life and destiny. When we look at the
development of this great fundamental conflict we feel that disputes
between rival ecclesiastical systems are of trifling moment; the real task
at the present time before every form of religion is the task of
vindicating itself before a hostile view of life and things.

It is the consciousness of this fact which has led to the translation and
publication in English of Professor Otto’s volume. Professor Otto is well
known on the Continent as a thinker who possesses the rare merit of
combining a high philosophic discipline with an accurate and comprehensive
knowledge of the science of organic nature. It is this combination of
aptitudes which has attracted so much attention to his work on Naturalism
and Religion, and which gives it a value peculiar to itself. At a time
when so much loose and incoherent thinking exists about fundamental
problems, and when so many irrelevant claims are made, sometimes on behalf
of religion and sometimes on behalf of hypotheses said to be resting upon
science, it is a real satisfaction to meet with such a competent guide as
Dr. Otto. Although his book is written for the general reader, it is in
reality a solid scientific contribution to the great debate at present in
progress between two different conceptions of the ultimate nature and
meaning of things. As such it is to be hoped that it will receive the
favourable consideration which it deserves at the hands of the
English-speaking world.



The title of this book, contrasting as it does the naturalistic and the
religious interpretation of the world, indicates that the intention of the
following pages is, in the first place, to define the relation, or rather
the antithesis, between the two; and, secondly, to endeavour to reconcile
the contradictions, and to vindicate against the counter-claims of
naturalism, the validity and freedom of the religious outlook. In doing
this it is assumed that there is some sort of relation between the two
conceptions, and that there is a possibility of harmonising them.

Will this be admitted? Is it not possible that the two views are
incommensurable, and would it not be most desirable for both sides if this
were so, for if there is no logical antithesis then there can be no real
antagonism? And is not this actually the case? Surely we have now left far
behind us the primitive expressions of the religious outlook which were
concerned with the creation of the world in six days, the making of Eve
out of Adam’s rib, the story of Paradise and the angelic and demoniacal
forces, and the accessory miracles and accompanying signs by means of
which the Divine control of the world was supposed to manifest itself. We
have surely learnt by this time to distinguish between the simple mythical
or legendary forms of expression in the religious archives, and their
spiritual value and ethical content. We can give to natural science and to
religious feeling what is due to each, and thus have done for ever with
tedious apologetic discussion.

It were well indeed if we had really attained to this! But the relations,
and therefore the possibilities of conflict between religion and
world-science, are by no means so easily disposed of. No actually existing
form of religion is so entirely made up of “feeling,” “subjectivity,” or
“mood,” that it can dispense with all assumptions or convictions regarding
the nature and import of the world. In fact, every form, on closer
examination, reveals a more or less fixed framework of convictions,
theoretical assumptions, and presuppositions in regard to man, the world,
and existence: that is to say, a theory, however simple, of the universe.
And this theory must be harmonised with the conceptions of things as they
are presented to us in general world-lore, in natural and historical
science, in particular sciences, in theories of knowledge, and perhaps in
metaphysics; it must measure itself by and with these, and draw from them
support and corroboration, and possibly also submit to contradiction and

There is no form of religion, not even the most rarefied (which makes
least claim because it has least content), that does not include in itself
some minute Credo, some faith, implying attachment to a set of doctrines
and conclusions however few. And it is always necessary to show that these
conclusions are worthy of adherence, and that they are not at variance
with conclusions and truths in regard to nature and the world drawn from
other sources. And if we consider, not the efflorescences and artificial
products of religion, but religion itself, it is certain that there is,
and always must be, around it a borderland and fringe of religious
world-theory, with which it is not indeed identical, but without which it
is inconceivable; that is, a series of definite and characteristic
convictions relating to the world and its existence, its meaning, its
“whence” and “whither”; to man and his intelligence, his place and
function in the world, his peculiar dignity, and his destiny; to time and
space, to infinity and eternity, and to the depth and mystery of Being in

These convictions and their fundamental implications can be defined quite
clearly, both singly and as a whole, and later we shall attempt so to
define them. And it is of the greatest importance to religion that these
presuppositions and postulates should have their legitimacy and validity
vindicated. For they are at once the fundamental and the minimal
postulates which religion must make in its outlook on the world, which it
must make if it is to exist at all. And they are so constituted that, even
when they are released from their primitive and naïve form and
association, and permitted speculative development and freedom, they must,
nevertheless, just because they contain a theory of the world, be brought
into comparison, contact, or relation of some kind, whether hostile or
friendly, with other world-conceptions of different origin. This relation
will be hostile or friendly according to the form these other conceptions
have taken. It is impossible to imagine any religious view of the world
whose network of conceptions can have meshes so wide, or constituents so
elastic and easily adjustable, that it will allow every theoretical
conception of nature and the world to pass through it without violence or
friction, offering to none either let or hindrance.

It has indeed often been affirmed that religion may, without anxiety about
itself, leave scientific knowledge of the world to go its own way. The
secret reservation in this position is always the belief that scientific
knowledge will never in any case reach the real depth and meaning of
things. Perhaps this is true. But the assumption itself would remain, and
would have to be justified. And if religion had no other interest in
general world-theory, it would still have this pre-eminent one, that, by
defining the limitations of scientific theory, and showing that they can
never be transcended, it thus indicates for itself a position beyond them
in which it can dwell securely. In reality religion has never ceased to
turn its never-resting, often anxious gaze towards the progress, the
changes, the secure results and tentative theories in the domain of
general world-science, and again and again it has been forced to come to a
new adjustment with them.

One great centre of interest, though by no means the only or even the
chief one, lies in the special field of world-lore and theoretical
interpretation comprised in the natural sciences. And in the following
pages we shall make this our special interest, and shall endeavour to
inquire whether our modern natural science consists with the “minimal
requirements” of the religious point of view, with which we shall make
closer acquaintance later; or whether it is at all capable of being
brought into friendly relations with that point of view.

Such a study need not necessarily be “apologetic,” that is to say,
defensive, but may be simply an examination. For in truth the real results
of investigation are not now and never were “aggressive,” but are in
themselves neutral towards not only religious but all idealistic
conceptions, and leave it, so to speak, to the higher methods of study to
decide how the material supplied is to be taken up into their different
departments, and brought under their particular points of view. Our
undertaking only becomes defensive and critical because, not from caprice
or godlessness, but, as we shall see, from an inherent necessity, the
natural sciences, in association with other convictions and aims, tend
readily to unite into a distinctive and independent system of
world-interpretation, which, if it were valid and sufficient, would drive
the religious view into difficulties, or make it impossible. This
independent system is Naturalism, and against its attacks the religious
conception of the world has to stand on the defensive.

What is Distinctive in the Religious Outlook.

At the very beginning and throughout we must keep the following points
clearly before us, otherwise all our endeavours will only lead us astray,
and be directed towards an altogether false issue.

Firstly, everything depends and must depend upon vindicating the validity
and freedom of the religious view of the world as contrasted with
world-science in general; but we must not attempt to derive it directly
from the latter. If religion is to live, it must be able to
demonstrate—and it can be demonstrated—that its convictions in regard to
the world and human existence are not contradicted from any other quarter,
that they are possible and may be believed to be true. It can, perhaps,
also be shown that a calm and unprejudiced study of nature, both physical
and metaphysical reflection on things, will supplement the interpretations
of religion, and will lend confirmation and corroboration to many of the
articles of faith already assured to it. But it would be quite erroneous
to maintain that we must be able to read the religious conception of the
world out of nature, and that it must be, in the first instance, derivable
from nature, or that we can, not to say must, regard natural knowledge as
the source and basis of the religious interpretation of the world. An
apologetic based on such an idea as this would greatly overestimate its
own strength, and not only venture too high a stake, but would damage the
cause of religion and alter the whole position of the question. This
mistake has often been made. The old practice of finding “evidences of the
existence of God” had exactly this tendency. It was seriously believed
that one could thereby do more than vindicate for religious conviction a
right of way in the system of knowledge. It was seriously believed that
knowledge of God could be gained from and read out of nature, the world,
and earthly existence, and thus that the propositions of the religious
view of the world could not only gain freedom and security, but could be
fundamentally proved, and even directly inferred from Nature in the first
instance. The strength of these evidences was greatly overestimated, and
Nature was too much studied with reference to her harmony, her marvellous
wealth and purposeful wisdom, her significant arrangements and endless
adaptations; and too little attention was paid to the multitudinous
enigmas, to the many instances of what seems unmeaning and purposeless,
confused and dark. People were far too ready to reason from finite things
to infinite causes, and the validity or logical necessity of the
inferences drawn was far too rarely scrutinised. And, above all, the main
point was overlooked. For even if these “evidences” had succeeded better,
if they had been as sufficient as they were insufficient, it is certain
that religion and the religious conception of the world could never have
arisen from them, but were in existence long before any such
considerations had been taken into account.

Long before these were studied, religion had arisen from quite other
sources. These sources lie deep in the human spirit, and have had a long
history. To trace them back in detail is a special task belonging to the
domain of religious psychology, history, and philosophy, and we cannot
attempt it here, but must take it for granted. Having arisen from these
sources, religion has long lived a life of its own, forming its own
convictions in regard to the world and existence, possessing these as its
faith and truth, basing their credibility, and gaining for them the
adherence of its followers, on quite other grounds than those used in
“proving the existence of God.” Ideas and conclusions which have not
arisen in this way can hardly be said to be religious, though they may
resemble religious ideas. But having thus arisen, the religious view comes
into contact with knowledge in general, and then a need for justification,
or even a state of antagonism, may arise. It may then be asked whether
convictions and ideas which, so far, have come solely from within, and
have been affirmed and recognised as truths only by heart and conscience,
can possibly be adhered to in the face of the insight afforded by an
investigation and scientific knowledge of nature.

Let us take an example, and at once the highest that can be found. The
religious recognition of the sway of an eternal Providence cannot possibly
be directly derived from, or proved by, any consideration of nature and
history. If we had not had it already, no apologetic and no evidences of
the existence of God would have given it to us. The task of an apologetic
which knows its limitations and its true aims can only be to inquire
whether there is scope and freedom left for these religious ideas
alongside of our natural knowledge of the world; to show that the latter,
because of its proper limitations, has no power to make a pronouncement in
regard to the highest meaning of the world; and to point to certain
indications in nature and history that justify us in interpreting the
whole in terms of purpose and ultimate import. This is the case with all
the conceptions and conclusions of the religious view of the world. No
single one of them can be really proved from a study of nature, because
they are much too deep to be reached by ordinary reasoning, and much too
peculiar in their character and content to be discovered by any scientific
consideration of nature or interpretation of the world. It is, however, at
the same time obvious that all apologetic must follow religion, and can
never precede it. Religion can only be awakened, never coerced. Once
awakened, it can reflect on its validity and freedom; but it alone can
really understand both. And apart from religion, or without its presence,
all apologetic endeavours are gratuitous, and are, moreover, expressly
forbidden by its own highest authorities (Matt. xxiii. 15).

The second point is even more important. Religion does not hold its theory
of the world and its interpretations of the nature and meaning of things
in the same way as poetry does its fine-spun, airy dreams, whose chief
value lies in the fact that they call up moods and arouse a play of
feeling, and which may be grave or gay, elegiac or idyllic, charming or
sublime, but may be true or false indifferently.

For there is this outstanding difference between religion and all
“moods”—all poetic or fanciful views of nature—that it lives by the
certainty of its ideas, suffers if they be uncertain, and dies if they be
shown to be untenable, however charming or consoling, sublime or simple
they may be. Its theories of the world are not poems; they are
convictions, and these require to be first of all not pleasing but true.
(Hence it is that criticism may arise out of religion itself, since
religion seeks for its own sake to find secure foundations.) And in this
respect the religious conception of the world is quite in line with
world-theory in general. Both desire to express reality. They do not wish
to lay gaily-coloured wreaths and garlands about reality that they may
enjoy it, plunged in their respective moods; they desire to understand it
and give an account of it.

But there is at once apparent a characteristic difference between the
propositions and conclusions of the religious view and those of the
secular, a difference not so much of content, which goes without saying,
but in the whole form, manner and method, and tone. As Schleiermacher put
it: “You can never say that it advances with the sure tread” of which
science in general is capable, and by which it is recognisable. The web of
religious certainty is much more finely and delicately woven, and more
susceptible of injury than the more robust one of ordinary knowledge.
Moreover, where religious certainty has attained its highest point in a
believing mind, and is greater rather than less than the certainty of what
is apprehended by the senses or experienced day by day, this
characteristic difference is most easily discerned. The believer is
probably much more confident about “the care of his Heavenly Father,” or
“the life eternal,” than he is about this life with its varying and
insignificant experiences and content. For he knows about the life beyond
in quite a different way. The truths of the religious outlook cannot be
put on the same level as those of ordinary and everyday life. And when the
mind passes from one to the other it does so with the consciousness that
the difference is in kind. The knowledge of God and eternity, and the real
value, transcending space and time, of our own inner being, cannot even in
form be mixed up with the trivial truths of the normal human understanding
or the conclusions of science. In fact, the truths of religion exhibit, in
quite a special way, the character of all ideal truths, which are not
really true for every day at all, but are altogether bound up with exalted
states of feeling. This is expressed in the old phrase, “Deus non scitur
sed creditur” [God is not known but believed in]. For the Sorbonne was
quite right and protected one of the essential interests of religion, when
it rejected as heresy the contrary position, that it was possible to
“know” God. Thus, in the way in which I “know” that I am sitting at this
writing-table, or that it rained yesterday, or that the sum of the angles
in a triangle are equal to two right angles, I can know nothing of God.
But I can know of Him something in the way in which I know that to tell
the truth is right, that to keep faith is duty, propositions which are
certain and which state something real and valid, but which I could not
have arrived at without conscious consent, and a certain exaltation of
spirit on my own part. This, and especially the second part of it, holds
true in an increased degree of all religious conceptions. They weave
themselves together out of the most inward and subtle experiences, out of
impressions which are coarsened in the very act of expressing them. Their
import and value must be judged entirely by the standards of conscience
and feeling, by their own self-sufficiency and validity. The best part of
them lies in the intensity and vitality of their experience, and in the
spontaneous acceptance and recognition which they receive. They cannot be
apprehended by the prosaic, secular mind; whatever is thus apprehended is
at most an indifferent analogue of religious experience, if it is not
self-deception. It is only in exaltation, in quiet enthusiasm, that
religious feelings can come to life and become pervasive, and religious
truth can only become a possession available for everyday use in
proportion as it is possible to make this non-secular and exalted state of
mind permanent, and to maintain enthusiasm as the enduring mood of life
and conduct. And as this is capable of all degrees of intensity from
overpowering outbursts and isolated raptures to a gentle but permanent
tension and elevation of spirit, so also is the certainty and actuality of
our knowledge, whether of the sway of the divine power, or of our own
higher nature and destiny, or of any religious truth whatever. This is
what is meant by St. Paul’s “Praying without ceasing” and his “Being in
the Spirit” as a permanent mood; and herein lies the justification of the
statement of enthusiasm that truth is only found in moments of ecstasy. In
fact, religion and religious interpretations are nothing if not
“enthusiasms,” that is to say, expressions of the art of sustaining a
permanent exaltation of spirit. And any one who is not capable of this
inward exaltation, or is too little capable of it, is badly qualified for
either religion or religious outlook. The “enthusiasts” will undoubtedly
make a better figure in the “kingdom of God,” as well as find an easier
entrance therein, than the prosaic matter-of-fact people.

This is really the source of much that is vexatious in all apologetic
efforts, and indeed in all theorising about religion, as soon as we
attempt to get beyond the periphery into the heart of the matter. For in
order to understand the subject at all a certain amount of “enthusiasm” is
necessary, and in most cases the disputants fail to reach common ground
because this enthusiasm is lacking in one or both. If they both have it,
in that case also dialectics are out of the question.

Finally, it must be remarked that, as Luther puts it, “Faith always goes
against appearances.” The religious conception of the world not only never
grows directly out of a scientific and general study of things, but it can
never be brought into absolute congruence with it. There are endless
tracts and domains of the world, in nature and history, which we cannot
bring under the religious consideration at all, because they admit of no
interpretation from the higher or more general points of view; they lie
before us as everlasting unrelated mysteries, uncomprehended as to their
import and purpose. Moreover, the religious theory of the world can never
tell us, or wish to tell us, what the world is as a whole, or what is the
meaning of its being. It is enough for us that it throws light on our own
being, and reveals to us our place and destiny, and the meaning of our
existence. It is enough if, in this respect, reality adapts itself to the
interpretations of religion, admits of their truth and allows them scope,
and corroborates them in important ways and instances. It actually does
this, and it can be demonstrated that it does. And in demonstrating this
the task of an apologetic that knows its own limitations alone consists.
It must be aware that it will succeed even in this, only if it is
supported by a courageous will to believe and joy in believing, that many
gaps and a thousand riddles will remain, that the ultimate and highest
condition of the search after a world-interpretation is personal decision
and personal choice, which finally depends upon “what manner of man one
is.” Faith has always meant going against appearances. It has gone against
them not from obstinacy or incorrigible lack of understanding, but because
it has had strong reasons, impossible to set aside, for regarding
appearances literally as appearances. It has suffered from the apparent,
often even to the point of extinction, and has again drawn from it and
from its opposition its highest strength. That they overmastered
appearances made of the heroes of faith the greatest of all heroes. And
thus religion lives by the very riddles which have frequently caused its
death, and they are a part of its inheritance and constitution. To work
continually towards their solution is a task which it will never give up.
Until success has been achieved, it is of importance to show, that what
comes into conflict with faith in these riddles at the present day is not
something new and previously unheard of. In cases where faith has died
because of them we almost invariably find the opinion that religion might
have been possible in earlier and more naïve times, but that it is no
longer possible to us, with our deeper insight into the dark mystery of
nature and destiny. This is foolishness. When faith dies thus, it dies of
one of its infantile diseases. For from the tragedies of Job and of
Jeremiah to the Tower of Siloam and the horror of the Mont-Pelée eruption
there runs a direct lineage of the same perennial riddle. Well-developed
religion has never existed without this—at once its shadow and its


Naturalism is not of to-day or of yesterday, but is very ancient,—as old,
indeed, as philosophy,—as old as human thought and doubt. Indeed, we may
say that it almost invariably played its part whenever man began to
reflect on the whence and the how of the actual world around him. In the
philosophical systems of Leucippus and Democritus and Epicurus it lies
fully developed before us. It persisted as a latent and silently dreaded
antagonist, even in times when “orthodox” anti-naturalistic and
super-naturalistic systems were the officially prevailing ones, and were
to all appearance generally adhered to. So in the more modern systems of
materialism and positivism, in the _Système de la nature_ and in the
theory of _l’homme machine_, in the materialistic reactions from the
idealistic nature-speculations of Schelling and Hegel, in the discussions
of materialism in the past century, in the naturalistic writings of
Moleschott, Czolbe, Vogt, Büchner, and Haeckel, and in the still dominant
naturalistic tendency and mood which acquired new form and deep-rooted
individuality through Darwinism,—in all these we find naturalism, not
indeed originating as something new, but simply blossoming afresh with
increased strength. The antiquity of Naturalism is no reproach, and no
reason for regarding it as a matter long since settled; it rather
indicates that Naturalism is not a chance phenomenon, but an inevitable
growth. The favourite method of treating it as though it were the outcome
of modern scepticism, malice, or obduracy, is just as absurd as if the
“naturalists” were to treat the convictions of their opponents as the
result of incredible narrow-mindedness, priestly deception, senility, or
calcification of the brain-cells. And as naturalism is of ancient origin
so also do its different historical phases and forms resemble each other
in their methods, aims, and arguments, as well as in the moods,
sympathies, and antipathies which accompany them. Even in its most highly
developed form we can see that it did not spring originally from a
completed and unified principle, but was primarily criticism of and
opposition to other views.

What is Distinctive in the Naturalistic Outlook.

At first tentative, but becoming ever more distinctly conscious of its
real motive, Naturalism has always arisen in opposition to what we may
call “supernatural” propositions, whether these be the naïve mythological
explanations of world-phenomena found in primitive religions, or the
supernatural popular metaphysics which usually accompanies the higher
forms. It is actuated at the same time by one of the most admirable
impulses in human nature,—the impulse to explain and understand,—and to
explain, if possible, through simple, familiar, and ordinary causes. The
sane human understanding sees all about it the domain of everyday and
familiar phenomena. It is quite at home in this domain; everything seems
to it well-known, clear, transparent, and easily understood; it finds in
it intelligible causes and certain laws which govern phenomena, as well as
a constant association of cause and effect. Here everything can be
individually controlled and examined, and everything “happens naturally.”
Things govern themselves. Nothing unexpected, nothing that has not its
obvious causes, nothing mysterious or miraculous happens here. Sharply
contrasted with this stands the region of the apparently inexplicable, the
supernatural, with all its influences and operations, and results. To the
religious interpretation in its naïve, pious, or superstitious forms of
expression, this region of the supernatural seems to encroach broadly and
deeply on the domain of the everyday world. But with the awakening of
criticism and reflection, and the deepening of investigation into things,
it retreats farther and farther, it surrenders piece after piece to the
other realm of thought, and this arises doubt and suspicion. With these
there soon awakens a profound conviction that a similar mode of causal
connection binds all things together, a glimmering of the uniformity and
necessity embracing, comprehending, and ultimately explaining all things.
And these presentiments, in themselves at first quite childishly and
almost mythologically conceived, may still be, even when they first arise,
and while they are still only vaguely formulated, anticipations of later
more definite scientific conceptions. Such a beginning of naturalistic
consciousness may remain quite naïve and go no farther than a silent but
persistent protest. It makes free use of such familiar expressions as
“everything comes about of itself”; “everything happens by natural means”;
“it is all ‘nature’ or ‘evolution.’ ” But from the primitive naturalistic
outlook there may arise reconstructions of nature and cosmic speculations
on a large scale, expanding into naturalistic systems of the most manifold
kinds, beginning with those of the Ionic philosophers and coming down to
those of the most recent times. Their watchwords remain the same, though
in an altered dialect: “nature and natural phenomena,” the denial of
“dualism,” the upholding of the one principle “monism,” the
all-sufficiency of nature, and the absence of any intervening influences
from without or beyond nature. Rapidly and of necessity this last item
becomes transformed into a “denial of teleology”: nature knows neither
will nor purpose, it has only to do with conditions and results. With
these it deals and through them it works. Even in the most elementary
naturalistic idea, that “everything happens of itself,” there lurks that
aversion to purpose which characterises all naturalistic systems.

A naturalism which has arisen and grown in this manner has in itself
nothing to do with concrete and exact knowledge of nature. It may comprise
a large number of ideas which are sharply opposed to “science,” and which
may be in themselves mythological, or poetical, or even mystical. For what
“nature” itself really is fundamentally, how it moves, unfolds, or impels,
how things actually happen “naturally,” this naturalism has never
attempted to think out. Indeed, naturalism of this type, though it opposes
“dualism,” does not by any means usually intend to set itself against
religion. On the contrary, in its later developments, it may take it up
into itself in the form of an apotheosis and a worship of nature. Almost
invariably naturalism which begins thus develops, not into atheism, but
into pantheism. It is true that all is nature and happens naturally. But
nature itself, as Thales said, is “full of gods,” instinct with divine
life. It is the all-living which, unwearied and inexhaustible, brings
forth form after form and pours out its fulness. It is Giordano Bruno’s
“Cause, Principle, and Unity,” in endless beauty and overpowering
magnificence, and it is Goethe’s “Great Goddess,” herself the object of
the utmost admiration, reverence, and devotion. This mood may readily pass
over into a kind of worship of God and belief in Him, “God” being regarded
as the soul and mind, the “Logos” of Heraclitus and the Stoics, the inner
meaning and reason of this all-living nature. And thus naturalism in its
last stages may sometimes be quite devout, and may assure us that it is
compelled to deny only the transcendental and not the immanent God, the
Divine being enthroned above the world, but not the living God dwelling
within it. And ever anew Goethe’s verse is quoted:

    What God would _outwardly_ alone control,
    And on His finger whirl the mighty Whole?
    He loves the _inner_ world to move, to view
    Nature in Him, Himself in nature too,
    So that what in Him works, and is, and lives,
    The measure of His strength, His spirit gives.

The True Naturalism.

But naturalism becomes fundamentally different when it ceases to remain at
the level of naïve or fancifully conceived ideas of “nature” and “natural
occurrences,” when, instead of poetry or religious sentiments, it
incorporates something else, namely, exact natural science and the idea of
a mathematical-mechanical calculability in the whole system of nature.
“Nature” and “happening naturally”, as used by the naïve intelligence, are
half animistic ideas and modes of expression, which import into nature, or
leave in it, life and soul, impulse, and a kind of will. And that
speculative form of naturalism which tends to become religious develops
this fault to its utmost. But a “nature” like this is not at all a
possible subject for natural science and exact methods, not a subject for
experiment, calculation, and fixed laws, for precise interpretation, or
for interpretation on simple rational principles. Instead of the naïve,
poetical, and half mystical conceptions of nature we must have a really
scientific one, so that, so to speak, the supernatural may be eliminated
from nature, and the apparently irrational rationalised; that is, so that
all its phenomena may be traced back to simple, unequivocal, and easily
understood processes, the actual why and how of all things perceived, and
thus, it may be, understood; so that, in short, everything may be seen to
come about “by natural means.”

There is obviously one domain and order of processes in nature which
exactly fulfils those requirements, and is really in the fullest sense
“natural,” that is, quite easily understood, quite rational, quite
amenable to computation and measurement, quite rigidly subordinate to laws
which can be formulated. These are the processes of physics and chemistry,
and in a still higher degree those of movement in general, the processes
of mechanics in short. And to bring into this domain and subordinate to
its laws everything that occurs in nature, all becoming, and passing away,
and changing, all development, growth, nutrition, reproduction, the origin
of the individual and of the species, of animals and of man, of the living
and the not living, even of sensation and perception, impulse, desire and
instinct, will and thought—this alone would really be to show that things
“happen naturally,” that is, to explain everything in terms of natural
causes. And the conviction that this can be done is the only true

Naturalism of this type is fundamentally different in mood and character
from the naïve and poetic form, and is, indeed, in sharp contrast to it.
It is working against the very motives which are most vital to the
latter—namely, reverence for and deification of nature. Where the two
types of naturalism really understand themselves nothing but sharp
antagonism can exist between them. Those on the one side must condemn this
unfeeling and irreverent, cold and mathematical dissection and analysis of
the “Great Goddess” as a sacrilege and outrage. And those on the other
side must utterly reject as romantic the view which is summed up in the
confession: “Ist nicht Kern der Natur Menschen im Herzen?” [Is not the
secret of nature in the human heart?]

Goethe’s Attitude to Naturalism.

The most instructive example we can take is Goethe: his veneration for
nature on the one hand, and on the other his pronounced opposition to the
naturalism both of the materialists and of the mathematicians. Modern
naturalists are fond of seeking repose and mental refreshment in Goethe’s
conception of the world, under the impression that it fits in best and
most closely with their own views. That they do this says much for their
mood and taste, but not quite so much for their powers of discrimination
or for their consistency. It is even more thoughtless than when the
empiricists and sensationalists acclaim as their hero, Spinoza, the
strict, pure rationalist, the despiser of empiricism and of knowledge
acquired through the senses. For to Goethe nature is far from being a
piece of mechanism which can be calculated on and summed up in
mathematical formulæ, an everlasting “perpetuum mobile,” a magnificent
all-powerful machine. In fact, all this and especially the word “machine”
expresses exactly what Goethe’s conception was most directly opposed to.
To him nature is truly the “Goddess,” the great Diana of the Ephesians,
the everlasting Beauty, the artist of genius, ceaselessly inventing and
creating, in floods of Life, in Action’s storm—an infinite ocean, a
restless weaving, a glowing Life. Embracing within herself the highest and
the humblest, she is in all things, throughout all change and
transformation, the same, shadowing forth the most perfect in the
simplest, and in the highest only unfolding what she had already shown in
the lowliest. Therefore Goethe hated all divisions and rubrics, all the
contrasts and boundaries which learned analysis attempts to introduce into
nature. Passionately he seized on Herder’s idea of evolution, and it was
towards establishing it that all his endeavours, botanical, zoological,
morphological and osteological, were directed. He discovered in the human
skull the premaxillary bone which occurs in the upper jaw of all mammals,
and this “keystone to man” gave him, as he himself said, “such joy that
all his bowels moved.” He interpreted the skull as developed from three
modified vertebræ. He sketched a hypothesis of the primitive plant, and
the theory that all the organs of the plant are modifications and
developments of the leaf. He was a friend of Etienne Geoffroy St. Hilaire,
who defended “l’unité de composition organique” in the forms of nature,
and evolution by gradual stages, and he was the vehement opponent of
Cuvier, who attempted to pick the world to pieces according to strictly
defined architectural plans and rigid classes. And what the inner impulse
to all this was he has summed up in the motto to his “Morphology” from the
verse in Job:

    Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not;
    He is transformed, but I perceive him not.

He further declares it in the introductory verse to his Osteology:

    Joyfully some years ago,
      Zealously my spirit sought
    To explore it all, and know
      How all nature lived and wrought:
    And ’tis ever One in all,
      Though in many ways made known;
    Small in great, and great in small,
      Each in manner of its own.
    Ever shifting, yet fast holding;
      Near and far, and far and near;
    So, with moulding and remoulding,—
      To my wonder I am here.

In all this there is absolutely nothing of the characteristic mood and
spirit of “exact” naturalism, with its mechanical and mathematical
categories. It matters little that Goethe, when he thought of evolution,
never had present to his mind the idea of Descent which is characteristic
of “Darwinism,” but rather development in the lofty sense in which it is
worked out in the nature-philosophy of Schelling and of Hegel. The chief
point is, that to him nature was the all-living and ever-living, whose
creating and governing cannot be reduced to prosaic numbers or
mathematical formulæ, but are to be apprehended as a whole by the
perceptions of genius rather than worked out by calculation or in detail.
Any other way of regarding nature Goethe early and decisively rejected.
And he has embodied his strong protest against it in his “Dichtung und

“How hollow and empty it seemed to us in this melancholy, atheistical
twilight.... Matter, we learnt, has moved from all eternity, and by means
of this movement to right and left and in all directions, it has been
able, unaided, to call forth all the infinite phenomena of existence.”

The book—the “Système de la Nature”—“seemed to us so grey, so Cimmerian,
so deathlike that it was with difficulty we could endure its presence.”

And in a work with remarkable title and contents, “Die Farbenlehre,”
Goethe has summed up his antagonism to the “Mathematicians,” and to their
chief, Newton, the discoverer and founder of the new
mathematical-mechanical view of nature. Yet the mode of looking at things
which is here combated with so much labour, wit, and, in part, injustice,
is precisely that of those who, to this day, swear by the name of Goethe
with so much enthusiasm and so little intelligence

The two Kinds of Naturalism.

But let us return to the two kinds of naturalism we have already
described. Much as they differ from one another in reality, they are very
readily confused and mixed up with one another. And the chief peculiarity
of what masquerades as naturalism among our educated or half-educated
classes to-day lies in the fact that it is a mingling of the two kinds.
Unwittingly, people combine the moods of the one with the reasons and
methods of the other; and having done so they appear to themselves
particularly consistent and harmonious in their thought, and are happy
that they have been able thus to satisfy at once the needs of the
intellect and those of the heart.

On the one hand they stretch the mathematical-mechanical view as far as
possible from below upwards, and even attempt to explain the activities of
life and consciousness as the results of complex reflex mechanisms. And on
the other hand they bring down will soul and instincts into the lowest
stages of existence, and become quite animistic. They wish to be nothing
if not “exact,” and yet they reckon Goethe and Bruno among the greatest
apostles of their faith, and set their verses and sayings as a _credo_ and
motto over their own opinions. In this way there arises a “world
conception” so indiarubber-like and Protean that it is as difficult as it
is unsatisfactory to attempt to come to an understanding with it. If we
attempt to get hold of it by the fringe of poetry and idealism it has
assumed, it promptly retires into its “exact” half. And if we try to limit
ourselves to this, in order to find a basis for discussion, it spreads out
before us all the splendours of a great nature pantheism, including even
the ideas of the good, the true, and the beautiful. One thing only it
neglects, and that is, to show where its two very different halves meet,
and what inner bond unites them. Thus if we are to discuss it at all, we
must first of all pick out and arrange all the foreign and mutually
contradictory constituents it has incorporated, then deal with Pantheism
and Animism, and with the problem of the possibility of “the true, the
good, the beautiful” on the naturalistic-empiric basis, and finally there
would remain a readily-grasped residue of naturalism of the second form,
to come to some understanding with which is both necessary and

In the following pages we shall confine ourselves entirely to this type,
and we shall not laboriously disentangle it from the bewildering medley of
ideas foreign to it, or attempt to make it consistent; we shall neglect
these, and have regard solely to its clear fundamental principles and
aims. Thus regarded, its horizons are perfectly well-defined. It is
startling in its absolute poverty of ideal content, warmth, and charm, but
impressive and grand in the perseverance and tenacity with which it
adheres to one main point of view throughout. In reality, it is aggressive
to nothing, but cold and indifferent to everything, and for this very
reason is more dangerous than all the excited protests and verdicts of the
enthusiastic type of naturalism, which it is impossible to attack, because
of its lack of definite principles, and which, in the pathetic stress it
lays on worshipping nature, lives only by what it has previously borrowed
from the religious conceptions of the world.

Aim and Method of Naturalism.

The aim and method of the strict type of naturalism may be easily defined.
In its details it will become more distinct as we proceed with our
analysis. Taking it as a whole, we may say that it is an endeavour on a
large scale after consistent simplification and gradual reduction to lower
and lower terms. Since it aims at explaining and understanding everything
according to the axiom _principia non temere esse multiplicanda_
[principles are not to be heedlessly multiplied], explaining, that is,
with the fewest, simplest, and most obvious principles possible, it is
incumbent upon it to attempt to refer all phenomena to a single, uniform
mode of occurrence, which admits of nothing outside of or beyond itself,
and which regulates itself according to its own system of fundamentally
similar causal sequences. It is further incumbent upon it to trace back
this universal mode of occurrence to the simplest and clearest form
possible, and its uniformities to the fewest and most intelligible laws,
that is, ultimately, to laws which can be determined by calculation and
summed up in formulæ. This tracing back is equivalent to an elimination of
all incommensurable causes, of all “final causes,” that is, of ultimate
causes and “purposes” which, in an unaccountable manner, work into the
network of proximate causes and control them, and by thus interrupting
their connectedness, make it difficult to come to a clear understanding of
the “Why?” of things. And this elimination is again a “reduction to
simpler terms,” for it replaces the “teleological” consideration of
purposes, by a purely scientific consideration of causes, which inquires
only into the actual conditions antecedent to certain sequences.

But Being and Becoming include two great realms: that of “Nature” and that
of “Mind,” _i.e._ consciousness and the processes of consciousness. And
two apparently fundamentally different branches of knowledge relate to
these: the natural sciences, and the mental sciences. If a unified and
“natural” explanation is really possible, the beginning and end of all
this “reducing to simpler terms” must be to bridge over the gulf between
these; but this, in the sense of naturalism, necessarily means that the
mental sciences must in some way be reduced to terms of natural science,
and that the phenomena, processes, sequences, and laws of consciousness
must likewise be made “commensurable” with and be linked on to the
apparently simpler and clearer knowledge of “Nature,” and, if possible, be
subordinated to its phenomena and laws, if not indeed derived from them.
As it is impossible to regard consciousness itself as corporeal, or as a
process of movement, naturalism must at least attempt to show that the
phenomena of consciousness are attendant and consequent on corporeal
phenomena, and that, though they themselves never become corporeal, they
are strictly regulated by the laws of the corporeal and physical, and can
be calculated upon and studied in the same way.

But even the domain of the natural itself, as we know it, is by no means
simple and capable of a unified interpretation. Nature, especially in the
realm of organic life, the animal and plant world, appears to be filled
with marvels of purposefulness, with riddles of development and
differentiation, in short with all the mysteries of life. Here most of all
it is necessary to “reduce” the “teleological view” to terms of the purely
causal, and to prove that all the results, even the evolution of the forms
of life, up to their highest expressions and in the minutest details of
their marvellous adaptations, came “of themselves,” that is to say, are
quite intelligible as the results of clearly traceable causes. It is
necessary to reduce the physiological and developmental, and all the other
processes of life, to terms of physical and chemical processes, and thus
to reduce the living to the not living, and to derive the organic from the
forces and substances of inanimate nature.

The process of reduction does not stop even here. For physical and
chemical processes are only really understood when they can be resolved
into the simplest processes of movement in general, when all qualitative
changes can be traced hack to purely quantitative phenomena, when,
finally, in the mechanics of the great masses, as well as of the
infinitely small atoms, everything becomes capable of expression in
mathematical terms.

But naturalism of this kind is by no means pure natural science; it
consciously and deliberately oversteps in speculation the bounds of what
is strictly scientific. In this respect it bears some resemblance to the
nature-philosophy associated with what we called the first type of
naturalism. But its very poverty enables it to have a strictly defined
programme. It knows exactly what it wants, and thus it is possible to
argue with it. The religious conception of the world must come to an
understanding with it, for it is quite obvious that the more indifferent
this naturalism is to everything outside of itself, and the less
aggressive it pretends to be, the more does the picture of the world which
it attempts to draw exert a cramping influence on religion. Where the two
come into contact we shall endeavour to make clear in the following pages.


The fundamental convictions of naturalism, its general tendencies, and the
points of view which determine its outlook, are primarily related to that
order of facts which forms the subject of the natural sciences, to
“Nature.” It is only secondarily that it attempts to penetrate with the
methods of the natural sciences into the region of the conscious, of the
mind, into the domain that underlies the mental sciences, including
history and the æsthetic, political, and religious sciences, and to show
that, in this region as in the other, natural law and the same principles
of interpretation obtain, that here, too, the “materialistic conception of
history holds true, and that there is no autonomy of mind.”

The interests of religion here go hand in hand with those of the mental
sciences, in so far as these claim to be distinct and independent. For the
question is altogether one of the reality, pre-eminence, and independence
of the spiritual as opposed to the “natural.” Occasionally it has been
thought that the whole problem of the relations between religion and
naturalism was concentrated on this point, and the study of nature has
been left to naturalism as if it were indifferent or even hopeless, thus
leaving a free field for theories of all kinds, the materialistic
included. It is only in regard to the Darwinian theory of evolution and
the mechanical theory of the origin and nature of life, and particularly
in regard to the relatively unimportant question of “spontaneous
generation” that a livelier interest is usually awakened. But these
isolated theories are only a part of the “reduction,” which is
characteristic of naturalism, and they can only be rightly estimated and
understood in connection with it. We shall turn our attention to them only
after we have carefully considered what is fundamental and essential. But
the idea that religion may calmly neglect the study of nature as long as
naturalism leaves breathing-room for the freedom and independence of mind
is quite erroneous. If religion is true, nature must be of God, and it
must bear tokens which allow us to interpret it as of God. And such signs
are to be found. What we shall have to say in regard to them may be summed
up in the following propositions:—

1. Even the world, which has been brought under the reign of scientific
laws, is a mystery; it has been _formulated_, but not _explained_.

2. The world governed by law is still dependent, conditioned, and

3. The conception of Nature as obedient to law is not excluded but rather
demanded by belief in God.

4, 5. We cannot comprehend the true nature and depth of things, and the
world which we do comprehend is not the true Reality of things; it is only
its appearance. In feeling and intuition this appearance points beyond
itself to the true nature of things.

6. Ideas and purposes, and with them Providence and the control of things,
can neither be established by the natural sciences nor disputed by them.

7. The causal interpretation demanded by natural science fits in with an
explanation according to purpose, and the latter presupposes the former.

How the Religious and the Naturalistic Outlooks Conflict.

Religion comes into contact with naturalism and demands to be reconciled
with it, not merely at its periphery, but at its very core, namely, with
its characteristic ideal of a mathematical-mechanical interpretation of
the whole world. This ideal seems to be most nearly, if not indeed
completely, attained in reference to the inter-relations of the great
masses, in the realm of astronomy, with the calculable, inviolable, and
entirely comprehensible conditions which govern the purely mechanical
correlations of the heavenly bodies. To bring the same clearness and
intelligibility, the same inevitableness and calculability into the world
in general, and into the whole realm of nature down to the mysterious law
determining the development of the daintiest insect’s wing, and the
stirrings of the grey matter in the cortex of the brain which reveal
themselves to us as sensation, desire, and thought, this has always been
the aim and secret faith of the naturalistic mode of thought. It is thus
aiming at a Cosmos of all Being and Becoming, which can be explained from
itself, and comprehended in itself alone, supported by its own complete
and all-sufficing causality and uniformity, resting in itself, shut up
within itself, complete in itself—a God sufficient unto himself and
resting in himself.

We do not need to probe very deeply to find out how strongly religion
resists this attempt, and we easily discover what is the disturbing
element which awakens hostile feeling. It is of three kinds, and depends
on three characteristic aims and requirements of religion, which are
closely associated with one another, yet distinct from one another, though
it is not always easy to represent them in their true proportions and
relative values. The first of these interests seems to be “teleology,” the
search after guiding ideas and purposes, after plan and directive control
in the whole machinery, that sets itself in sharp opposition to a mere
inquiry into proximate causes. Little or nothing is gained by knowing how
everything came about or must have come about; all interest lies in the
fact that everything has come about in such a way that it reveals
intention, wisdom, providence, and eternal meaning, realising itself in
details and in the whole. This has always been rightly regarded as the
true concern and interest of every religious conception of the world. But
it has been sometimes forgotten that this is by no means the only, or even
the primary interest that religion has in world-lore. We call it its
highest and ultimate interest, but we find, on careful study, that two
others are associated with and precede it.

For before all belief in Providence and in the divine meaning of the
world, indeed before faith at all, religion is primarily feeling—a deep,
humble consciousness of the entire dependence and conditionality of our
existence, and of all things. The belief we have spoken of is, in relation
to this feeling, merely a form—as yet not in itself religious. It is not
only the question “Have the world and existence a meaning, and are
phenomena governed by ideas and purposes?” that brings religion and its
antagonists into contact; there is a prior and deeper question. Is there
scope for this true inwardness of all religion, the power to comprehend
itself and all the world in humility in the light of that which is not of
the world, but is above world and existence? But this is seriously
affected by that doctrine which attempts to regard the Cosmos as
self-governing and self-sufficing, needing nothing, and failing in
nothing. It is this and not Darwinism or the descent from a Simian stock
that primarily troubles the religious spirit. It is more specially
sensitive to the strange and antagonistic tendency of naturalism shown
even in that marvellous and terrifying mathematical-mechanical system of
the great heavenly bodies, in this clock of the universe which, in
obedience to clear and inviolable laws, carries on its soundless play from
everlasting to everlasting, needing no pendulum and no pedestal, without
any stoppage and without room for dependence on anything outside of
itself, apparently entirely godless, but absolutely reason and God enough
for itself. It shrinks in terror from the thought that the same autonomy
and self-regulation may be brought down from the stage of immensity into
the play of everyday life and events.

But we must penetrate still deeper. Schleiermacher has directed our
attention anew to the fact that the most profound element in religion is
that deep-lying consciousness of all creatures, “I that am dust and
ashes,” that humble feeling of the absolute dependence of every being in
the world on One that is above all the world. But religion does not fully
express itself even in this; there is yet another note that sounds still
deeper and is the keynote of the triad. “Let a man examine himself.” Is it
not the case that we ourselves, in as far as the delight in knowledge and
the enthusiasm for solving riddles have taken hold of us, rejoice in every
new piece of elucidation and interpretation that science succeeds in
making, that we are in the fullest sympathy with the impulse to understand
everything and bring reason and clearness into it, and that we give hearty
adherence to the leading ideas which guide the investigations of natural
science? Yet on the other hand, in as far as we are religious, do we not
sometimes feel a sudden inward recoil from this almost profane eagerness
to penetrate into the mystery of things, this desire to have everything
intelligible, clear, rational and transparent? This feeling which stirs in
us has always existed in all religious minds and will only die with them.
And we need not hesitate to say so plainly. For this is the most real
characteristic of religion; it seeks depth in things, reaches out towards
what is concealed, uncomprehended, and mysterious. It is more than
humility; it is piety. And piety is experience of mystery.

It is at this point that religion comes most violently into antagonism
with the meaning and mood of naturalism. Here they first conflict in
earnest. And it is here above all that scientific investigation and its
materialistic complement seem to take away freedom and truth, air and
light from religion. For science is seeking especially this: Deeper
penetration into and illumination of the world. It presses with macroscope
and microscope into its most outlying regions and most hidden corners,
into its abysses and fastnesses. It explains away the old idea of two
worlds, one on this side and one on that, and rejects heavenly things with
the notice “No Room” of which D. Fr. Strauss speaks. It aims at
discovering the mathematical world-formulæ, if not indeed one great
general formula which embraces, defines unequivocally, and rationalises
all the processes of and in infinity, from the movements of Sirius to
those of the cilia of the infusorian in the drop of water, and which not
only crowds “heaven” out of the world, but strips away from things the
fringe of the mysterious and incommensurable which seemed to surround

Mystery : Dependence : Purpose.

There is then a threefold religious interest, and there are three
corresponding points of contact between the religious and the naturalistic
interpretations of the world, where, as it appears, they are necessarily
antagonistic to one another. Arranging them in their proper order we find,
first, the interest, never to be relinquished, of experiencing and
acknowledging the world and existence to be a mystery, and regarding all
that is known and manifested in things merely as the thin crust which
separates us from the uncomprehended and inexpressible. Secondly, there is
the desire on the part of religion to bring ourselves and all creatures
into the “feeling of absolute dependence,” and, as the belief in creation
does, to subordinate ourselves and them to the Eternal Power that is not
of the world, but is above the world. Finally, there is the interest in a
teleological interpretation of the world as opposed to the purely causal
interpretation of natural science; that is to say, an interpretation of
the world according to eternal God-willed purposes, governing ideas, a
plan and aim. In all three respects, it is important to religion that it
should be able to maintain its validity and freedom as contrasted with

But while religion must inquire of itself into the reality of things, with
special regard to its own needs, there are two possibilities which may
serve to make peace between it and natural science. It may, for instance,
be possible that the mathematical-mechanical interpretation of things,
even if it be sufficient within its own domain, does not take away from
nature the characters which religion seeks and requires in it, namely,
purpose, dependence and mystery. Or it may be that nature itself does not
correspond at all to this ideal of mathematical explicability, that this
ideal may be well enough as a guide for investigation, but that it is not
a fundamental clue really applying to nature as a whole and in its
essence. It may be that nature as a whole cannot be scientifically summed
up without straining the mechanical categories. And this suggests another
possibility, namely, that the naturalistic method of interpretation cannot
be applied throughout the whole territory of nature, that it embraces
certain aspects but not others, and, finally, that it is distinctly
interrupted and held in abeyance at particular points by the
incommensurable which breaks forth spontaneously out of the depths of
phenomena, revealing a depth which is not to be explained away.

All these possibilities occur. And though they need not necessarily be
regarded as the key to our order of discussion, in what follows we shall
often meet them singly or together.

The Mystery of Existence Remains Unexplained.

1. Let us begin with the problem of the mystery of all existence, and see
whether it remains unaffected, or whether it disappears in face of
naturalistic interpretation, with its discovery and formulation of law and
order, with its methods of measuring and computing. More primary even than
faith and heartfelt trust in everlasting wisdom and purposeful Providence
there is piety; there is devout sense of awe before the marvellous and
mysterious, before the depth and the hidden nature of all things and all
being, before unspeakable mysteries over which we hover, and abysmal
depths over which we are borne. In a world which had not these, and could
not be first felt in this way, religion could not live at all. It could
not sail on its too shallow waters, or breathe its too thin air. It is
indeed a fact that what alone we can fitly speak of and love as
religion—the sense of mystery and the gentle shuddering of piety before
the depth of phenomena and their everlasting divine abysses,—has its true
place and kingdom in the world of mind and history, with its experiences,
riddles, and depths. But mystery is to be found in the world of nature as
well. It is only to a very superficial study that it could appear as
though nature were, or ever could become, plain and obvious, as if the
veil of Isis which shrouds its depths from all investigation could ever be
torn away. From this point of view it would make no difference even though
the attempt to range the whole realm of nature under the sway of
inviolable laws were to be immediately successful. This is expressed in
the first of our main propositions (p. 35).

In order to realise this it is necessary to reflect for a little on the
relation of “explanation” and “description” to one another, and on what is
meant by “establishing laws” and “understanding” in general. The aim of
all investigation is to understand the world. To understand it obviously
means something more than merely to know it. It is not enough for us to
know things, that is, to know what, how many, and what different kinds of
things there are. On the contrary, we want to understand them, to know how
they came to be as they are, and why they are precisely as they are. The
first step towards this understanding is merely to know, that is, we must
rightly apprehend and disentangle the things and processes of the world,
grouping them, and describing them adequately and exhaustively.

But what I have merely described I have not yet understood; I am only
preparing to try to understand it. It stands before me enveloped in all
its mystery, and I must now begin to attempt to solve it, for describing
is not explaining; it is only challenging explanation. The next step is to
discover and formulate the laws. For when man sifts out things and
processes and follows them out into their changes and stages he discovers
the iron regularity of sequences, the strictly defined lines and paths,
the inviolable order and connection in things and occurrences, and he
formulates these into laws, ascribing to them the idea of necessity which
he finds in himself. In so doing he makes distinct progress, for he can
now go beyond what is actually seen, he can draw inferences with certainty
as to effects and work back to causes. And thus order, breadth of view,
and uniformity are brought into his acquaintance with facts, and his
science begins. For science does not merely mean acquaintance with
phenomena in their contingent or isolated occurrence, manifold and varied
as that may be; it is the discovery and establishment of the laws and
general modes of occurrence. Without this we might collect curiosities,
but we should not have science. And to discover this network of
uniformities throughout all phenomena, in the movements of the heavenly
bodies and in the living substance of the cell alike, is the primary aim
of all investigation. We are still far away from this goal, and it is more
than questionable whether we shall ever reach it.

But if the goal should ever be reached, if, in other words, we should ever
be able to say with certainty what must result if occurrences _a_ and _b_
are given, or what _a_ and _b_ must have been when _c_ occurs, would
explanation then have taken the place of description? Or would
understanding have replaced mystery? Obviously not at all. It has indeed
often been supposed that this would be the case. People have imagined they
have understood, when they have seen that “that is always so, and that it
always happens in this particular way.” But this is a naïve idea. The
region of the described has merely become larger, and the riddle has
become more complex. For now we have before us not only the things
themselves, but the more marvellous laws which “govern” them. But laws are
not forces or impelling causes. They do not cause anything to happen, and
they do not explain anything. And as in the case of things so in that of
laws, we want to know how they are, whence they come, and why they are as
they are and not quite different. The fact that we have described them
simply excites still more strongly the desire to explain them. To explain
is to be able to answer the question “Why?”

Natural science is very well aware of this. It calls its previous
descriptions “merely historical,” and it desires to supplement these with
ætiology, causal explanation, a deeper interpretation, that in its turn
will make laws superfluous, because it will penetrate so deeply into the
nature of things that it will see precisely why these, and not other laws
of variation, of development, of becoming, hold sway. This is just the
meaning of the “reductions” of which we have already spoken. For instance,
in regard to crystal formation, “explanation” will have replaced
description only when, instead of demonstrating the forms and laws
according to which a particular crystal always and necessarily arises out
of a particular solution, we are able to show why, from a particular
mixture and because of certain co-operating molecular forces, and of other
more primary, more remote, but also intelligible conditions, these forms
and processes of crystallisation should always and of necessity occur. If
this explanation were possible, the “law” would also be explained, and
would therefore become superfluous. From this and similar examples we can
learn at what point “explanation” begins to replace description, namely,
when processes resolve themselves into simpler processes from the
concurrence of which they arise. This is exactly what natural science
desires to bring about, and what naturalism hopes ultimately to succeed
in, thereby solving the riddle of existence.

But this kind of reduction to simpler terms only becomes “explanation”
when these simpler terms are themselves clear and intelligible and not
merely simple; that is to say, when we can immediately see why the simpler
process occurs, and by what means it is brought about, when the question
as to the “why” is no longer necessary, because, on becoming aware of the
process, we immediately and directly perceive that it is a matter of
course, indisputable, and requiring no proof. If this is not the case, the
reduction to simpler terms has been misleading. We have only replaced one
unintelligibility by another, one description by another, and so simply
pushed back the whole problem. Naturalism supposes that by this gradual
pushing back the task will at least become more and more simple, until at
last a point is reached where the riddle will solve itself, because
description becomes equivalent to explanation. This final stage is
supposed to be found in the forces of attraction and repulsion, with which
the smallest similar particles of matter are equipped. Out of the
endlessly varied correlations of these there arise all higher forms of
energy and all the combinations which make up more complex phenomena.

But in reality this does not help us at all. For now we are definitely
brought face to face with the quite unanswerable question, How, from all
this homogeneity and unity of the ultimate particles and forces, can we
account for the beginnings of the diversity which is so marked a
characteristic of this world? Whence came the causes of the syntheses to
higher unities, the reasons for the combination into higher resultants of

But even apart from that, it is quite obvious that we have not yet reached
the ultimate point. For can “attraction,” influence at a distance, _vis a
fronte_, be considered as a fact which is in itself clear? Is it not
rather the most puzzling fundamental riddle we can be called upon to
explain? Assuredly. And therefore the attempt is made to penetrate still
deeper to the ultimate point, the last possible reduction to simpler
terms, by referring all actual “forces” and reducing all movement, and
therewith all “action,” to terms of attraction and repulsion, which are
free from anything mysterious, whose mode of working can be unambiguously
and plainly set forth in the law of the parallelogram of forces. Law? Set
forth? Therefore still only description? Certainly only description, not
explanation in the least. Even assuming that it is true, instead of a mere
Utopia, that all the secrets and riddles of nature can be traced back to
matter moved by attraction and repulsion according to the simplest laws of
these, they would still only be summed up into a great general riddle,
which is only the more colossal because it is able to embrace all others
within itself. For attraction and repulsion, the transference of motion,
and the combination of motion according to the law of the parallelogram of
forces—all this is merely description of processes whose inner causes we
do not understand, which appear simple, and are so, but are nevertheless
not self-evident or to be taken as a matter of course; they are not in
themselves intelligible, but form an absolute “world-riddle.” From the
very root of things there gazes at us the same Sphinx which we had
apparently driven from the foreground.

But furthermore, this reduction to simpler terms is an impossible and
never-ending task. There is fresh confusion at every step. In reducing to
simpler terms, it is often forgotten that the principle of combination is
not inherent in the more simple, and cannot be “reduced.” Or else there is
an ignoring of the fact that a transition has been made, not from
resultants to components, but to quite a different kind of phenomena.
Innumerable as are the possible reductions to simpler terms, and mistaken
as it would be to remain prematurely at the level of description, it
cannot be denied that the fundamental facts of the world are pure facts
which must simply be accepted where they occur, indisputable,
inexplicable, impenetrable, the “whence” and the “how” of their existence
quite uncomprehended. And this is especially true of every new and
peculiar expression of what we call energy and energies. Gravitation
cannot be reduced to terms of attraction and repulsion, nor action at a
distance to action at close quarters; it might, indeed, be shown that
repulsion in its turn presupposes attraction before it can become
possible; the “energies” of ponderable matter cannot be reduced to the
“ether” and its processes of motion, nor the complex play of the chemical
affinities to the attraction of masses in general or to gravity. And thus
the series ascends throughout the spheres of nature up to the mysterious
directive energies in the crystal, and to the underivable phenomena of
movement in the living substance, perhaps even to the functions of
will-power. All these can be discovered, but not really understood. They
can be described, but not explained. And we are absolutely ignorant as to
why they should have emerged from the depth of nature, what that depth
really is, or what still remains hidden in her mysterious lap. Neither
what nature reveals to us nor what it conceals from us is in any true
sense “comprehended,” and we flatter ourselves that we understand her
secrets when we have only become accustomed to them. If we try to break
the power of this accustomedness and to consider the actual relations of
things there dawns in us a feeling already awakened by direct impressions
and experience; the feeling of the mysterious and enigmatical, of the
abyssmal depths beneath, and of what lies far above our comprehension,
alike in regard to our own existence and every other. The world is at no
point self-explanatory, but at all points marvellous. Its laws are only
formulated riddles.

Evolution and New Beginnings.

All this throws an important light upon two subjects which are relevant in
this connection, but which cannot here be exhaustively dealt
with,—evolution and new beginnings. Let us consider, for instance, the
marvellous range and diversity of the characteristic chemical properties
and interrelations of substances. Each one of them, contrasted with the
preceding lower forms and stages of “energy,” contrasted with mere
attraction, repulsion, gravitation, is something absolutely new, a new
interpolation (of course not in regard to time but to grade), a phenomenon
which cannot be “explained” by what has gone before. It simply occurs, and
we find it in its own time and place. We may call this new emergence
“evolution,” and we may use this term in connection with every new stage
higher than those preceding it. But it is not evolution in a crude and
quantitative sense, according to which the “more highly evolved” is
nothing more than an addition and combination of what was already there;
it is evolution in the old sense of the word, according to which the more
developed is a higher analogue of the less developed, but is in its own
way as independent, as much a new beginning as each of the antecedent
stages, and therefore in the strict sense neither derivable from them nor
reducible to them.

It must be noted that in this sense evolution and new beginnings are
already present at a very early stage in nature and are part of its
essence. We must bear this in mind if we are rightly to understand the
subtler processes in nature which we find emerging at a higher level. It
is illusory to suppose that it is a “natural” assumption to “derive” the
living from lower processes in nature. The non-living and the inorganic
are also underivable as to their individual stages, and the leap from the
inorganic to the organic is simply much greater than that from attraction
in general to chemical affinity. As a matter of fact, the first
occurrence—undoubtedly controlled and conditioned by internal necessity—of
crystallisation, or of life, or of sensation has just the same
marvellousness as everything individual and everything new in any
ascending series in nature. In short, every new beginning has the same

Perhaps this consideration goes still deeper, throwing light upon or
suggesting the proper basis for a study of the domain of mind and of
history. It is immediately obvious that there, at any rate, we enter into
a region of phenomena which cannot be derived from anything antecedent, or
reduced to anything lower. It must be one of the chief tasks of naturalism
to explain away these facts, and to maintain the sway of “evolution,” not
in our sense but in its own, that is “to explain” everything new and
individual from that which precedes it. But the assertion that this can be
done is here doubly false. For, in the first place, it cannot be proved
that methods of study which are relatively valid for natural phenomena are
applicable also to those of the mind. And in the second place we must
admit that even in nature—apart from mind—we have to do with new
beginnings which are underivable from their antecedents.

All being is inscrutable mystery as a whole, and from its very foundations
upwards through each successively higher stage of its evolution, in an
increasing degree, until it reaches a climax in the incomprehensibility of
individuality. It is a mystery that does not force itself into nature as
supernatural or miraculous, but is fundamentally implicit in it, a mystery
that in its unfolding assuredly follows the strictest law, the most
inviolable rules, whether in the chemical affinities a higher grade of
energies reveals itself, or whether—unquestionably also in obedience to
everlasting law—the physical and chemical conditions admit of the
occurrence of life, or whether in his own time and place a genius

The Dependence of the Order of Nature.

(2 and 3). The “dependence” of all things is the second requirement of
religion, without which it is altogether inconceivable. We avoid the words
“creation” and “being created,” because they involve anthropomorphic and
altogether insufficient modes of representation. But throughout we have in
mind, as suggested by Schleiermacher’s expression already quoted, what all
religion means when it declares nature and the world to be _creatures_.
The inalienable content of this idea is that deep and assured feeling that
our nature and all nature does not rest in its own strength and
self-sufficiency, that there must be more secure reasons for nature which
are absolutely outside of it, and that it is dependent upon, and
conditioned through and through by something above itself, independent,
and unconditioned. “I believe that God has created me together with all
creatures.” (Luther.)

This faith seemed easier in earlier times, when men’s eyes were not yet
opened to see the deep-lying connectedness of all phenomena, the
inexorableness of causal sequences, when it was believed that, in the
apparently numerous interruptions of the causal sequences, the frailty and
dependence of this world and its need for heavenly aid could be directly
observed, when, therefore, it was not difficult to believe that the world
was “nothing” and perishable, that it had been called forth out of
nothing, and that in its transient nature it carried for ever the traces
of this origin. But to-day it is not so easy to believe in this
dependence, for nature seems to show itself, in its inviolable laws and
unbroken sequences, as entirely sufficient unto itself, so that for every
phenomenon a sufficient cause is to be found within nature, that is, in
the sum of the antecedent states and conditions which, according to
inevitable laws, must result in and produce what follows.

We have already noted that this is most obviously discernible in the world
of the great masses, the heavenly bodies which pursue their courses from
everlasting to everlasting, mutually conditioning themselves and betraying
no need for or dependence upon anything outside of themselves. Everything,
even the smallest movement, is here determined strictly by the dependence
of each upon all and of all upon each. There is no variation, no change of
position for which an entirely satisfactory cause cannot be found in the
system as a whole, which works like an immense machine. Nothing indicates
dependence upon anything external. And as it is to-day so it was
yesterday, and a million years ago, and innumerable millions of years ago.
It seems quite gratuitous to suppose that something which does not occur
to-day was necessary at an earlier period, and that everything has not
been from all eternity just as it is now.

We saw that naturalism is attempting to extend this character of
independence and self-sufficiency from the astronomical world to the world
as a whole. Shall we attempt, then, to oppose it in this ambition, but
surrender the realm of the heavenly bodies as already conquered? By no
means. For religion cannot exclude the solar system from the dependence of
all being upon God. And this very example is the most conspicuous one, the
one in regard to which the whole problem can be most definitely

Astronomy teaches us that all cosmic processes are governed by a
marvellous far-reaching uniformity of law, which unites in strictest
harmony the nearest and the most remote. Has this fact any bearing upon
the problem of the dependence of the world? No. It surely cannot be that a
world without order could be brought under the religious point of view
more readily than one governed by law! Let us suppose for a moment that we
had to do with a world without strict nexus and definite order of
sequence, without law and without order, full of capricious phenomena,
unregulated associations, an inconstant play of causes. Such a world would
be to us unintelligible, strange, absurd. But it would not necessarily be
more “dependent,” more “conditioned” than any other. Had I no other
reasons for looking beyond the world, and for regarding it as dependent on
something outside of itself, the absence of law and order would assuredly
furnish me with none. For, assuming that it is possible at all to conceive
of a world and its contents as independent, and as containing its own
sufficient cause within itself, it would be quite as easily thought of as
a confused lawless play of chances as a well-ordered Cosmos. Perhaps more
easily; for it goes without saying that such a conglomeration of
promiscuous chances could not possibly be thought of as a world of God.
Order and strict obedience to law, far from being excluded, are required
by faith in God, are indeed a direct and inevitable preliminary to
thinking of the world as dependent upon God. Thus we may state the
paradox, that only a Cosmos which, by its strict obedience to law, gives
us the impression of being sufficient unto itself, can be conceived of as
actually dependent upon God, as His creation. If any man desires to stop
short at the consideration of the apparent self-sufficiency of the Cosmos
and its obedience to law, and refuses to recognise any reasons outside of
the world for this, we should hardly be able, according to our own
proposition, to require him to go farther. For we maintained that God
could not be read out of nature, that the idea of God could never have
been gained in the first instance from a study of nature and the world.
The problem always before us is rather, whether, having gained the idea
from other sources, we can include the world within it. Our present
question is whether the world, as it is, and just because it is as it is,
can be conceived of as dependent upon God. And this question can only be
answered in the affirmative, and in the sense of Schiller’s oft-quoted

                        The great Creator
    We see not—He conceals himself within
    His own eternal laws. The sceptic sees
    Their operation, but beholds not Him,
    “Wherefore a God!” he cries, “the world itself
    Suffices for itself!” and Christian prayer
    Ne’er praised him more, than does this blasphemy.

God’s world could not possibly be a conglomeration of chances; it must be
orderly, and the fact that it is so proves its dependence.

But while we thus hold fast to our canon, we shall find that the assertion
of the world’s dependence receives indirect corroboration even in regard
to the astronomical realm, from certain signs which it exhibits, from
certain suggestions which are implied in it. We must not wholly overlook
two facts which, to say the least, are difficult to fit in with the idea
of the independence and self-sufficiency of the world; these are, on the
one hand, the difficulties involved in the idea of an eternal machine, and
on the other the difficult fact of “entropy.” We have already compared the
world to a mighty clock, or a machine which, as a whole, represents what
can never be found in one of its parts, a _perpetuum mobile_. Let us
however leave aside the idea of a _perpetuum mobile_, and dwell rather on
the comparison with a machine. It seems obvious that in order to be a
machine there must be a closed solidarity in the system. But how could a
machine have come into existence and become functional if it is driven by
wheels, which are driven by wheels, which are again driven by wheels ...
and so on unceasingly? It would not be a machine. The idea falls to pieces
in our hands. Yet our world is supposed to be just such an infinitely
continuous “system.” How does it begin to depend upon and be sufficient
unto itself? But further. It is a clock, we are told, which ever winds
itself up anew, which, without fatigue and in ceaseless repetition,
adjusts the universal cycles of becoming, and disappearing, and becoming
again. It seems a corroboration of the old Heraclitian and Stoic
conception, that the eternal primitive fire brings forth all things out of
itself, and takes them back into itself to bring them forth anew. Even
to-day the conception is probably general that, out of the original states
of the world-matter, circling fiery nebulæ form themselves and throw off
their rings, that the breaking up of these rings gives rise to planets
which circle in solar systems for many æons through space, till, finally,
their energy lessened by friction with the ether, they plunge into their
suns again, that the increased heat restores the original state and the
whole play begins anew.

All this was well enough in the days of naïvely vitalistic ideas of the
world as having a life and soul. But not in these days of mechanics, the
strict calculation of the amount of energy used, and the mechanical theory
of heat. The world-clock cannot wind itself up. It, too, owes its activity
to the transformation of potential energy into kinetic energy. And, since
movement and work take place within it, there is in the clock as a whole
just as in every one of its parts, a mighty process of relaxation of an
originally tense spring, there is dissipation and transformation of the
stored potential energy into work and ultimately into heat. And with every
revolution of the earth and its moon the world is moving slowly but
inexorably towards a final stage of complete relaxation of her powers of
tension, a state in which all energy will be transformed into heat, in
which there will be no different states but only the most uniform
distribution, in which also all life and all movement will cease and the
world-clock itself will come to a standstill.

How does this fit in with the idea of independence and self-sufficiency?
How could the world-clock ever wind itself up again to the original state
of tension which was simply there as if shot from a pistol “in the
beginning”? Where is the everlasting impressive uniformity and constancy
of the world? How does it happen that the world-clock has not long ago
come to a standstill? For even if the original sum of potential energy is
postulated as infinite, the eternity that lies behind us is also infinite.
And so one infinity swallows another. And innumerable questions of a
similar kind are continually presenting themselves.

The “Contingency” of the World.

But we need not dwell in the meantime on these and the many other
difficulties and riddles presented by our cosmological hypothesis. However
these may be solved, a general consideration will remain—namely, that
whether the world is governed by law or not, whether it is sufficient unto
itself or not, there _is_ a world full of the most diverse phenomena, and
there _are_ laws. Whence then have both these come? Is it a matter of
course, is it quite obvious that they should exist at all, and that they
should be exactly as they are? We do not here appeal without further
ceremony to the saying “everything must have a cause, therefore the world
also.” It is not absolutely correct. For instance, if the world were so
constituted that it would be impossible for it not to exist, that the
necessity for its existence and the inconceivability of its non-existence
were at once explicit and obvious, then there would be no sense in
inquiring after a cause. In regard to a “necessary” thing, if there were
any such, we cannot ask, “Why, and from what cause does this exist?” If it
was necessary, that implies that to think of it as not existing would be
ridiculous, and logically or metaphysically impossible. Unfortunately
there are no “necessary” things, so that we cannot illustrate the case by
examples. But there are at least necessary truths as distinguished from
contingent truths. And thus some light may be brought into the matter for
the inexpert. For instance, a necessary truth is contained in the
sentence, “Everything is equal to itself,” or, “The shortest distance
between two points is a straight line.” We cannot even conceive of the
contrary. Therefore these axioms have no reasons, and can neither be
deduced nor proved. Every question as to their reasons is quite
meaningless. As examples of a “contingent” truth we may take “It rains
to-day,” or “The earth revolves round the sun.” For neither one nor the
other of these is necessarily so. It is so as a matter of fact, but under
other circumstances it might have been otherwise. The contrary can be
conceived of and represented, and has in itself an equal degree of
possibility. Therefore such a fact requires to be and is capable of being
reasoned out. I can and must ask, “How does it happen that it rains
to-day? What are the reasons for it?” But as we must seek for sufficient
reasons for “contingent” truths, that is, for those of which the contrary
was equally possible, so assuredly we must seek for sufficient causes for
“contingent” phenomena and events, those which can be thought of as not
existing, or as existing in a different form. For these we must find
causes and actual reasons. Otherwise they have no foundation. The element
of “contingency” must be done away with; they must be shown to result from
sufficient causes. That is to say nothing less than that they must be
traced back to some necessity. For it is one of the curious fundamental
convictions of our reason, and one in which all scientific investigation
has its ultimate roots, that what is “contingent” is only apparently so,
and in reality is in some way or other based on necessity. Therefore
reason seeks causes for everything.

The search for causes involves showing that a thing was necessary. And
this must obviously apply to the world as a whole. If it were quite
obvious that the world and its existence as it is were necessary, that is,
that it would be contrary to reason to think of the world, and its
phenomena, and their obedience to law as non-existent, or as different
from what they are, all inquiry would be at an end. This would be _the_
ultimate necessity in which all the apparent contingency of isolated
phenomena and existences was firmly based. But this is far from being the
case. That anything exists, and that the world exists, is for us
absolutely the greatest “contingency” of all, and in regard to it we can
and must continually ask, “Why does anything exist at all, and why should
it not rather be non-existent?” Indeed, all our quest for sufficient
causes here reaches its climax. In more detail: that these celestial
systems and bodies, the ether, attraction and gravitation should exist,
and that everything should be governed by definite laws, all literally “as
if shot from a pistol,” there must undoubtedly be some sufficient reason,
certain as it is that we shall never discover it. It is true, as some one
has said, that we live not only in a very fortuitous world, but in an
incredibly improbable one. And this is not affected by the fact that the
world is completely governed by law. Law only confirms it. The fact that
all details may be clearly and mathematically calculated in no way
prevents them from being fundamentally contingent. For they are only so
calculable on the basis of the given fundamental characters of the world.
And that is precisely the problem: “Why do these characters exist and not
quite different ones, and why should any exist at all?”

If any one should say: “Well, we must just content ourselves with
recognising the essentially ‘contingent’ nature of existence, for we shall
never be able to get beyond that,” he would be right in regard to the
second statement. To get beyond that and to see what it is—eternal and in
itself necessary—that lies at the basis of this world of “contingency” is
indeed impossible. But he would be wrong as to the first part of the
assertion. For no one _will_ “content himself.” For that all chance is
only apparently chance, and is ultimately based in necessity, is a
deeply-rooted and fundamental conviction of our reason, one which directs
all scientific investigation, and which cannot be ignored. It demands
ceaselessly something necessary as the permanent basis of contingent
existence. And this fact is and remains the truth involved in the
“cosmological proofs of the existence of God” of former days. It was
certainly erroneous to suppose that “God” could be proved. For it is a
long way from that “idea of necessity” to religious experience of God. And
it was erroneous, too, to suppose that anything could be really “proved.”
What is necessary can never really be proved from what is contingent. But
the recognition of the contingent nature of the world is a stimulus that
stirs up within our reason the idea of the necessary, and it is a fact
that reason finds rest only in this idea.

The Real World.

(4.) What was stated separately in our first and second propositions, and
has hitherto been discussed, now unites and culminates in the fourth. For
if we note the vital expressions of religion wherever it occurs, we find
above all one thing as its most characteristic sign, indeed as its very
essence, in all places and all times, often only as a scarce uttered wish
or longing, but often breaking forth with impetuous might. This one thing
is the impulse and desire to get beyond time and space, and beyond the
oppressive narrowness and crampingness of the world surrounding us, the
desire to see into the depth and “other side” of things and of existence.
For it is the very essence of religion to distinguish this world from, and
contrast it as insufficient with the real world which is sufficient, to
regard this world which we see and know and possess as only an image, as
only transiently real, in contrast with the real world of true being which
is believed in. Religion has clothed this essential feature in a hundred
mythologies and eschatologies, and one has always given place to another,
the more sublimed to the more robust. But the fundamental feature itself
cannot disappear.

In apologetics and dogmatics the interest in this matter is often
concentrated more or less exclusively upon the question of “immortality.”
Wrongly so, however, for this quest after the real world is not a final
chapter in religion, it is religion itself. And in the religious sense the
question of immortality is only justifiable and significant when it is a
part of the general religious conviction that this world is not the truly
essential world, and that the true nature of things, and of our own being,
is deeper than we can comprehend, and lies beyond this side of things,
beyond time and space. To the religious mind it cannot be of great
importance whether existence is to be continued for a little at least
beyond this life. In what way would such a wish be religious? But the
inward conviction that “all that is transitory is only a parable,” that
all here is only a veil and a curtain, and the desire to get beyond
semblance to truth, beyond insufficiency to sufficiency, concentrate
themselves especially in the assertion of the eternity of our true being.

It is with this characteristic of religion that the spirit and method of
naturalism contrast so sharply. Naturalism points out with special
satisfaction that this depth of things, this home of the soul is nowhere
discoverable. The great discoveries of Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton have
done away with the possibility of that. No empyrean, no corner of the
world remains available. Even the attempted flight to sun, moon, or stars
does not help. It is true that the newly discovered world is without end,
but, beyond a doubt, in its outermost and innermost depths it is a world
of space and time. Even in the stellar abysses “everything is just the
same as with us.”

All this is doubtless correct, and it is very wholesome for religion. For
it prompts religion no longer to seek its treasure, the true nature of
things, and its everlasting home in time and space, as the mythologies and
eschatologies have sought them repeatedly. It throws religion back on the
fundamental insight and on the convictions which it had attained long
before philosophy and criticism of knowledge had arrived at similar views:
namely, that time and space, and this world of time and space, do not
comprise the whole of existence, nor existence as it really is, but are
only a manifestation of it to our finite and limited knowledge. Before the
days of modern astronomy, and without its help, religion knew that God was
not confined to “heaven,” or anywhere in space, and that time as it is for
us was not for Him. Even in the terms “eternity” and “infinity” it shows
an anticipatory knowledge of a being and reality above time and space.
These ideas were not gained from a contemplation of nature, but before it
and from independent sources.

But though it is by no means the task of apologetics to build up these
ideas directly from a study of things, it is of no little importance to
inquire whether religion possesses in these convictions only postulates of
faith, for which it must laboriously and forcibly make a place in the face
of knowledge, or whether a thorough and self-critical knowledge does not
rather confirm them, and show us, within the world of knowledge itself,
unmistakable signs that it cannot be the true, full reality, but points to
something beyond itself.

To study this question thoroughly would involve setting forth a special
theory of knowledge and existence. This cannot be attempted here. But
Kant’s great doctrine of the “Antinomy of Reason” has for all time broken
up for us the narrowness of the naturalistic way of thinking. Every one
who has felt cramped by the narrow limits in which reality was confined by
a purely mundane outlook must have experienced the liberating influence of
the Kantian Antinomy if he has thought over it carefully. The thick
curtain which separates being from appearance seems to be torn away, or at
any rate to reveal itself as a curtain. Kant shows that, if we were to
take this world as it lies before us for the true reality, we should land
in inextricable contradictions. These contradictions show that the true
world itself cannot coincide with our thought and comprehension, for in
being itself there can be no contradictions. Otherwise it would not exist.
The ancient problems of philosophy, from the time of the Eleatic school
onwards, find here their adequate formulation. Kant’s disciple, Fries, has
carried the matter further, and has attempted to develop what for Kant
still remained a sort of embarrassment of reason to more precise
pronouncements as to the relation of true being to its manifestation,

The Antimony of Our Conception of Time.

A few examples may serve to make the point clear. The first of the
antinomies is also the most impressive. It brings before us the
insufficiency of our conceptions of time, and shows the impossibility of
transferring, from the world as it appears to us, to real Being any mode
of conceiving time which we possess. The difficulty is, whether we are to
think of our world as having had a beginning or not. The naïve outlook
will at once assume without further ado a beginning of all things.
Everything must have had a beginning, though that may have been a very
long time ago. But on more careful reflection it is found impossible to
imagine this, and then the assumption that things had no beginning is made
with as little scruple. Let us suppose that the beginning of things was
six thousand, or, what is quite as easy, six thousand billion years ago.
We are at once led to ask what there was the year before or many years
before, and what there was before that again, and so on until we face the
infinite and beginningless. Thus we find that we have never really thought
of a beginning of things, and never could think of it, but that our
thinking always carries us into the infinite. Time, at any rate, we have
thought of as infinite. We may then amuse ourselves by trying to conceive
of endless time as empty, but we shall hardly be able to give any reason
for arriving at that idea. If time goes back to infinity, it seems
difficult to see why it should not always have been filled, instead of
only being so filled from some arbitrary point. And in any case the very
fact of the existence of time makes the problem of beginning or not
beginning insoluble. For such reasons Aristotle asserted that the world
had no beginning, and rejected the contrary idea as childish.

But the idea of no beginning is also childish or rather impossible, and in
reality inconceivable. For if it be assumed that the world and time have
never had a beginning, there stretches back from the time at which I now
find myself a past eternity. It must have passed completely as a whole,
for otherwise this particular point in time could never have been arrived
at. So that I must think of an infinity which nevertheless comes to an
end. I cannot do this. It would be like wooden iron.

The matter sounds simple but is nevertheless difficult in its
consequences. It confronts us at once with the fact, confirmed by the
theory of knowledge, that time as we know it is an absolutely necessary
and fundamental form of our conceptions and knowledge, but is likewise the
veil over what is concealed, and cannot be carried over in the same form
into the true nature of things. As the limits and contradictions in the
time-conception reveal themselves to us, there wakes in us the idea which
we accept as the analogue of time in true being, an idea of existence
under the form of “eternity,” which, since we are tied down to temporal
concepts, cannot be expressed or even thought of with any content.(2)

The Antimony of the Conditioned and the Unconditioned.

The antinomy of the conditioned and the unconditioned leads us along
similar lines. Every individual finite thing or event is dependent on its
causes and conditions, which precede it or co-exist in inter-relation with
it. It is conditioned, and is only possible through its conditions. But
that implies that it can only occur or be granted when all its conditions
are first given in complete synthesis. If any one of them failed, it would
not have come about. But every one of its conditioning circumstances is in
its turn conditioned by innumerable others, and every one of these again
by others, and so on into the infinite, backwards and on all sides, so
that here again something without end and incapable of end must have come
to an end, and must be thought of as having an end, before any event
whatever can really come to pass. But this again is a sheer impossibility
for our thinking: we require and must demand something completed, because
now is really now, and something happens now, and yet in the world as it
appears to us we are always forced to face what cannot have an end.

The Antimony of Our Conception of Space.

To bring our examples to a conclusion, we find the same sort of antinomy
in regard to space, and the world as it is extended in space. Here, too,
it becomes apparent that space as we imagine it, and as we carry it with
us as a concept for arranging our sense-impressions, cannot correspond to
the true reality. As in regard to time, so also in regard to space, we can
never after any distance however enormous come to a halt and say, “Here is
the end of space.” Whether we think of the diameter of the earth’s orbit
or the distance to Sirius, and multiply them by a million we always ask,
“What lies behind?” and so extend space into the infinite. And as a matter
of course we people it also without end with heavenly bodies, stars,
nebulae, Milky Ways and the like. For here again there can be no obvious
reason why space in our neighbourhood should be filled, while space at a
greater distance should be thought of as empty. Therefore we actually
think of star beyond star, and, as far as we can reckon, stars beyond that
without end. For space extends not merely so far, but always farther. And
the number of the stars is not so many, but always one more. This sounds
quite obvious, but it has exactly the same impossibility as we found in
our “past infinity.” For although we are carried by our conceptions into
the infinite, and to what never could have an end, it is impossible to
assume the same of reality.

It is remarkable and quite characteristic that the whole difficulty and
its peculiar nature become much more intelligible to us through the
familiar images and expressions of religion. There we readily admit that
we cannot comprehend the number of the stars and stellar spaces, because
for us they never reach an end, there being always one more; but that in
the eyes of God all is embraced in His universality, in a “perfect
synthesis,” and that to Him Being is never and in no point “always one
more.” God does not count.

Without the help of religious expressions we say: Being itself is always
itself and never implies any more; for if there were “always one more” it
would not be Being. It can only exist “as a perfect synthesis,” which does
not mean an endless number, which nevertheless somewhere comes to an
end—again wooden iron—but something above all reckoning and beyond all
number, as it is beyond space and time. And that which we are able to
weigh and measure and number is therefore not reality itself, but only its
inadequate manifestation to our limited capacity for understanding.

But enough of this. The puzzles in the doctrines of the simple and the
complex, of the causeless and the caused, into which this world of ours
forces us, should teach us further to recognise it for what it
is—insufficient and pointing beyond itself,—to its own transcendent
depths. So, too, the problems that arise when we penetrate farther and
farther into the ever more and more minute, and the indefiniteness of our
thought-horizons in general should have the same effect.

Intuitions of Reality.

(5.) There are other evidences of this depth and hidden nature of things,
towards which an examination of our knowledge points. For “in feeling and
intuition appearance points beyond itself to real being.” So ran our fifth
proposition. This subject indeed is delicate, and can only be treated of
in the hearing of willing ears. But all apologetic counts upon willing
ears; it is not conversion of doubters that is aimed at, it is religion
which seeks to reassure itself. Our proposition does not speak of dreams
but of facts, which are not the less facts because they are more subtle
than others. What we are speaking of are the deep impressions, which
cannot properly be made commensurable at all, which may spring up directly
out of an inward experience, an apprehension of nature, the world and
history, in the depths of the spirit. They call forth in us an
“anamnesis,” a “reminiscence” in Plato’s sense, awakening within us moods
and intuitions in which something of the essence and meaning of being is
directly experienced, although it remains in the form of feeling, and
cannot easily, if at all, find expression in definable ideas or clear
statements. Fries, in his book, “Wissen, Glaube, und Ahnung,” unhappily
too much forgotten, takes account of this fact, for he places this region
of spiritual experience beside the certainties of faith and knowledge, and
regards these as “animated” by it. He has in mind especially the
impressions of the beautiful and the sublime which far transcend our
knowledge of nature, and to which knowledge and its concepts can never do
adequate justice, facts though they undoubtedly are. In them we experience
directly, in intuitive feeling, that the reality is greater than our power
of understanding, and we feel something of its true nature and meaning.
The utterances of Schleiermacher(3) in regard to religion follow the same
lines. For this is precisely what he means when he insists that the
universe must be experienced in intuition and feeling as well as in
knowing and doing. He is less incisive in his expressions than Fries, but
wider in ideas. He includes in this domain of “intuitive feeling” not only
the aesthetic experiences of the beautiful and sublime, but takes the much
more general and comprehensive view, that the receptive mind may gather
from the finite impressions of the infinite, and may through its
experiences of time gain some conception of the eternal. And he rightly
emphasises, that such intuition has its true place in the sphere of mind
and in face of the events of history, rather than in the outer court of
nature. He, too, lays stress on the fact that doctrinal statements and
ideas cannot be formulated out of such subtle material.

The experience of which we are speaking may be most directly and
impressively gained from the great, the powerful, the sublime in nature.
It may be gained from the contemplation of nature’s harmonies and
beauties, but also of her overflowing abundance and her enigmatical
dæmonic strength, from the purposeful intelligibility as well as the
terrifying and bewildering enigmas of nature’s operations, from all the
manifold ways in which the mind is affected and startled, from all the
suggestive but indefinable sensations which may be roused in us by the
activity of nature, and which rise through a long scale to intoxicated
self-forgetfulness and wordless ecstasy before her beauty, and her
half-revealed, half-concealed mystery. If any or all of these be stirred
up in a mind which is otherwise godless or undevout, it remains an
indefinite, vacillating feeling, bringing with it nothing else. But in the
religious mind it immediately unites with what is akin to it or of similar
nature, and becomes worship. No dogmas or arguments for disputatious
reasoning can be drawn from it. It can hardly even be expressed, except,
perhaps, in music. And if it be expressed it tends easily to become
fantastic or romantic pomposity, as is shown even by certain parts of the
writings of Schleiermacher himself.

The Recognition of Purpose.

(6.) We must now turn to the question of “teleology.” Only now, not
because it is a subordinate matter, for it is in reality the main one, but
because it is the culminating point, not the starting point, of our
argument. If the world be from God and of God, it and all that it contains
must be for some definite purpose and for special ends. It must be swayed
by eternal ideas, and must be subject to divine providence and guidance.
But naturalism, and even, it appears, natural science, declares: Neither
purposes nor ideas are of necessity to be assumed in nature. They do not
occur either in the details or in the whole. The whole is an absolutely
closed continuity of causes, a causal but blind machinery, in regard to
which we cannot ask, What is meant to be produced by this? but only, What
causes have produced what exists? This opposition goes deep and raises
difficulties. And in all vindication or defence of religion it ought
rightly to be kept in the foreground of attention, although the points we
have already insisted on have been wrongly overlooked. The opposition
concentrates itself to-day almost entirely around two theories of
naturalism, which do not, indeed, set forth the whole case, but which are
certainly typical examples, so that, if we analyse them, we shall have
arrived at an orientation of the fundamental points at issue. The two
doctrines are Darwinism and the mechanical theory of life, and it is to
these that we must now turn our attention. And since the best elucidation
and criticism of both theories is to be found in their own history, and in
the present state of opinion within their own school, we shall have to
combine our study of their fundamental principles with that of their

We can here set forth, however, only the chief point of view, the gist of
the matter, which will continue to exist and hold good however the
analysis of details may turn out. For the kernel of the question may be
discussed independently, without involving the particular interests of
zoology or biology, though we shall constantly come across particular and
concrete cases of the main problem in our more detailed study.

The struggle against, and the aversion to ideas and purposes on the part
of the nature-interpreters is not in itself directed against religion. It
does not arise from any antagonism of natural science to the religious
conception of the world, but is primarily an antagonism of one school of
science to another, the modern against the mediæval-Aristotelian. The
latter, again, was not in itself a religious world-outlook, it was simply
an attempt at an interpretation of the processes of nature, and especially
of evolution, which might be quite neutral towards religion, or might be
purely naturalistic. It was the theory of Entelechies and _formæ
substaniales_. In order to explain how a thing had come to be, it taught
that the idea of the finished thing, the “form,” was implicit in it from
the very beginning, and determined the course of its development. This
“form,” the end aimed at in development, was “potentially,” “ideally,” or
“virtually” implicit in the thing from the beginning, was the _causa
finalis_, the ultimate cause which determined the development. Modern
natural science objects to this theory that it offers no explanation, but
merely gives a name to what has to be explained. The aim of science, it
tells us, is to elucidate the play of causes which brought about a
particular result. The hypothetical _causa finalis_ it regards as a mere
_asylum ignorantiæ_, and as the problem itself not as its solution. For
instance, if we inquire into the present form and aspect of the earth,
nothing is advanced by stating that the “form,” the primitive model of the
evolving earth was implicit in it from the beginning, and that it
gradually determined the phases and transition-stages of its evolution,
until the ultimate state, the end aimed at, was attained. The task of
science is, through geology, geognosy, mineralogy, geodesy, physical
geography, meteorology, and other sciences to discover the physical,
chemical, and mechanical causes of the earth’s evolution and their laws,
and from the co-operation of these to interpret everything in detail and
as a whole.

Whether modern natural science is right in this or not, whether or not it
has neglected an element of truth in the old theory of Entelechies which
it cannot dispense with, especially in regard to living organisms, it is
beyond dispute that, from the most general point of view, and in
particular with reference to teleology, religion does not need to concern
itself in the least about this opposition. “Purposes,” “ideas,” “guidance”
in the religious sense, are quite unaffected by the manner in which the
result is realised; everything depends upon the special and particular
value of what has been attained or realised. If a concatenation of causes
and stages of development lead to results in which we suddenly discern a
special and particular value, then, and not till then, have we a reason
and criterion for our assumption that it is not simply a result of a play
of chances, but that it has been brought about by purposeful thought, by
higher intervention and guidance of things. Certainly not before then.
Thus we can only speak of purposes, aims, guidance, and creation in so far
as we have within us the capacity for feeling and recognising the value,
meaning and significance of things. But natural science itself cannot
estimate these. It can or will only examine how everything has come about,
but whether this result has a higher value than another, or has a lower,
or none at all, it can neither assert nor deny. That lies quite outside of
its province.

Let us try to make this clear by taking at once the highest example—man
and his origin. Let it be assumed that natural science could discover all
the causes and factors which, operating for many thousands of years, have
produced man and human existence. Even if these causes and factors had
actually been pure “ideas,” _formæ substantiales_ and the like, that would
in no way determine whether the whole process was really subject to a
divine idea of purpose or not. If we had not gained, from a different
source, an insight into the supreme and incomparable worth of human
existence, spiritual, rational, and free, with its capacity for morality,
religion, art and science, we should be compelled to regard man, along
with every other natural result, as the insignificant product of a blind
play of nature. But, on the other hand, if we have once felt and
recognised this value of human existence, its highest dignity, the
knowledge that man has been produced through a play of highly complex
natural processes, fulfilling themselves in absolute obedience to law, in
no way prevents our regarding him as a “purpose,” as the realisation of a
divine idea, in accordance with which nature in its orderliness was
planned. In fact, this consideration leads us to discover and admire
eternal plan and divine guidance in nature.

For it does not rest with natural science either to discover or to deny
“purpose” in the religious sense in nature; it belongs to quite a
different order of experience, an entirely inward one. Just in proportion
as I become aware of, and acknowledge in the domain of my inward
experience and through my capacity of estimating values, the worth of the
spiritual and moral life of man, so, with the confidence of this peculiar
mode of conviction, I subordinate the concatenations of events and causes
on which the possibility and the occurrence of the spiritual and moral
life depend, to an eternal teleology, and see the order of the world that
leads to this illuminated by everlasting meaning and by providence.

Teleological and Scientific Interpretations are Alike Necessary.

(7.) Thus religion confidently subjects the world to a teleological
interpretation. And to a teleological study in this sense the strictly
causal interpretations of natural science are not hostile, but
indispensable. For how do things stand? Natural science endeavours by
persistent labour to comprehend the whole of the facts occurring in our
world, up to the existence of man, as the final outcome and result of an
age-long process of evolution, attempts also to follow this process ever
higher up the ladder of strictly causal and strictly law-governed
sequences, and finally to connect it with the primary and simplest
fundamental facts of existence, beyond which it cannot go, and which must
simply be accepted as “given.” If these results of this causally
interpreted evolution reveal themselves to our inward power of valuation
as full of meaning and value, indeed of the deepest and most incomparable
value, the causal mode of explanation is in no way affected, but its
results are all at once placed in a new light and reveal a peculiarity
which was previously not discoverable, yet which is their highest import.
They become a strictly united system of _means_. And purposefulness as a
potentiality is thus carried back to the very foundation and “beginning,”
to the fundamental conditions and primary factors of the cosmos itself.
The strict nexus of conditions and causes is thus nothing more than the
“endeavour after end and aim,” the carrying through and realisation of the
eternal purpose, which was implicit potentially in the fundamental nature
of things. The absolute obedience to law, and the inexorableness of chains
of sequence are, instead of being fatal to this position, indispensable to
it. When there is a purpose in view, it is only where the system of means
is perfect, unbroken, and absolute, that the purpose can be realised, and
therefore that intention can be inferred. In the inexplicable datum of the
fundamental factors of the world’s existence, in the strict nexus of
causes, in the unfailing occurrence of the results which are determined by
both these, and which reveal themselves to us as of value and purpose,
teleology and providence are directly realised. The only assumptions are,
that it is possible to judge the results according to their value, and
that both the original nature of the world and the system of its causal
sequences—that is, the world as we know it—can be conceived of in
accordance with the ideas of dependence and conditionedness. Both
assumptions are not only possible, but necessary.

In thinking out this most general consideration, we find the real and
fundamental answer to the question as to the validity and freedom of the
religious conception of the world with regard to teleology in nature. And
if it be held fast and associated with the insight into the autonomy of
the spiritual and its underivability from the natural, we are freed at
once from all the petty strife with the naturalistic doctrines of
evolution, descent, and struggle for existence. We shall nevertheless be
obliged to discuss these to some extent, because it is not a matter of
indifference whether the detailed study of natural evolution fits in more
or less easily with the conception of purpose whose validity we have
demonstrated in general. If that proves to be the case, it will be an
important factor in apologetics. The conclusion which we have already
arrived at on abstract grounds will then be corroborated and emphasised in
the concrete.


Darwinism, which was originally a technical theory of the biological
schools, has long since become a veritable tangle of the most diverse
problems and opinions, and seems to press hardly upon the religious
conception of the world from many different sides. In its theory of blind
“natural selection” and the fortuitous play of the factors in the struggle
for existence, it appears to surrender the whole of this wonderful world
of life to the rough and ready grip of a process without method or plan.
In the general theory of evolution and the doctrine of the descent of even
the highest from the lowest, it seems to take away all special dignity
from the human mind and spirit, all the freedom and all the nobility of
pure reason and free will; it seems to reduce the higher products of
religion, morality, poetry, and the æsthetic sense to the level of an
ignoble tumult of animal impulses, desires and sensations. Purely
speculative questions relative to the evolution theory, psychological and
metaphysical, logical and epistemological, ethical, æsthetic, and finally
even historical and politico-economical questions have been drawn into the
coil, and usually receive from the Darwinians an answer at once robust and
self-assured. A zoological theory seems suddenly to have thrown light and
intelligibility into the most diverse provinces of knowledge.

But in point of fact it can be shown that Darwinism has not really done
this and cannot do it. It leaves unaffected the problem of the mind with
its peculiar and underivable laws, from the logical to the ethical.
Whether it be right or wrong in its physiological theories, its
genealogical trees and fortuitous factors, preoccupation with this theory
is a task of the second order. Nevertheless it is necessary to study it,
because the chief objections to the religious interpretation of the world
have come from it.

The Development of Darwinism.

In studying it we should like to follow a method somewhat different from
that usually observed in apologetic writings. “Darwinism,” even in its
technical, biological form, never was quite, and is to-day not at all a
unified and consistent system. It has been modified in so many ways and
presented in such different colours, that we must either refrain
altogether from attempting to get into close quarters with it, or we must
make ourselves acquainted to some extent with the phases of the theory as
it has gradually developed up to the present day. This is the more
necessary and useful since it is precisely within the circle of technical
experts that revolts from and criticisms of the Darwinian theory have in
recent years arisen; and these are so incisive, so varied, and so
instructive, that through them we can adjust our standpoint in relation to
the theory better than in any other way. And in thus letting the
biologists speak for themselves, we are spared the fatal task of entering
into the discussion of questions belonging to a region outside our own
particular studies.

We cannot, however, give more than a short sketch. But even such a sketch
may do more towards giving us a general knowledge of the question and
showing us a way out of the difficulties it raises than any of the current
“refutations.” To supplement this sketch, and facilitate a thorough
understanding of the problem, we shall give somewhat fuller references
than are usual to the relevant literature. And the same method will be
pursued in the following chapter, which deals with the mechanical theory
of life. This method throws more upon the reader, but it is probably the
most satisfactory one for the serious student.

The reactions from the Darwinism of the schools which we have just
referred to, and to which the second half of this chapter is devoted, are,
of course, of a purely scientific kind. And while we are devoting our
attention to them, we must not be unfaithful to the canon laid down in the
previous chapter, namely that with reference to the question of teleology
in the religious sense no real answer can be looked for from scientific
study, not even if it be anti-Darwinian. In this case, too, it is
impossible to read the convictions and intuitions of the religious
conception of the world out of a scientific study of nature: they precede
it. But here, too, we may find some accessory support and indirect
corroboration more or less strong and secure. This may be illustrated by a
single example. It will be shown that, on closer study, it is not
impossible to subordinate even the apparently confused tangle of
naturalistic factors of evolution which are summed up in the phrase
“struggle for existence” to interpretation from the religious point of
view. But matters will be in quite a different position if the whole
theory collapses, and instead of evolution and its paths being given over
to confusion and chance, it appears that from the very beginning and at
every point there is a predetermination of fixed and inevitable lines
along and up which it must advance. In many other connections
considerations of a like nature will reveal themselves to us in the course
of our study.

Darwinism, as popularly understood, is the theory that “men are descended
from monkeys,” and in general that the higher forms of life are descended
from the lower, and it is regarded as Darwin’s epoch-making work and his
chief merit—or fault according to the point of view—that he established
the Theory of Descent. This is only half correct, and it leaves out the
real point of Darwinism altogether. The Theory of Descent had its way
prepared by the evolutionist ideas and the speculative nature-philosophy
of Goethe, Schelling, Hegel and Oken; by the suggestions and glimmerings
of the nature-mysticism of the romanticists; by the results of comparative
anatomy and physiology; was already hinted at, at least as far as
derivation of species was concerned, in the works of Linné himself; was
worked out in the “zoological philosophies,” by the elder Darwin, by
Lamarck, Etienne Geoffrey St. Hilaire and Buffon; was in the field long
before Charles Darwin’s time; was already in active conflict with the
antagonistic theory of the “constancy of species,” and had its more or
less decided adherents. Yet undoubtedly it was through and after Darwin
that the theory grew so much more powerful and gained general acceptance.

Darwinism and Teleology.

But the essential and most characteristic importance of Darwin and his
work, the reason for which he was called the Newton of biology, and which
makes Darwinism at once interesting and dangerous to the religious
conception of the world, is something quite special and new. It is its
radical opposition to teleology. Du Bois-Reymond, in his witty lecture
“Darwin versus Galiani,”(4) explains the gist of the matter. “Les dés de
la nature sont pipés” (nature’s dice are loaded). Nature is almost always
throwing aces. She brings forth not what is meaningless and purposeless,
but in great preponderance what is full of meaning and purpose. What
“loaded” her dice like this? Even if the theory of descent be true, in
what way does it directly help the purely scientific interpretation of the
world? Would not this evolution from the lowest to the highest simply be a
series of the most astonishing lucky throws of the dice by which in
perplexing “endeavour after an aim,” the increasingly perfect, and
ultimately the most perfect is produced? And, on the other hand, every
individual organism, from the Amœba up to the most complex vertebrate, is,
in its structure, its form, its functions, a stupendous marvel of
adaptation to its end and of co-ordination of the parts to the whole, and
of the whole and its parts to the functions of the organism, the functions
of nutrition, self-maintenance, reproduction, maintenance of the species,
and so on. How account for the adaptiveness, both general and special,
without _causæ finales_, without intention and purposes, without guidance
towards a conscious aim? How can it be explained as the necessary result
solely of _causæ efficientes_, of blindly working causes without a
definite aim? Darwinism attempts to answer this question. And its answer
is: “What appears to us ‘purposeful’ and ‘perfect’ is in truth only the
manifold adaptation of the forms of life to the conditions of their
existence. And this adaptation is brought about solely by means of these
conditions themselves. Without choice, without aim, without conscious
purpose nature offers a wealth of possibilities. The conditions of
existence act as a sieve. What chances to correspond to them maintains
itself, gliding through the meshes of the sieve, what does not perishes.”
It is an old idea of the naturalistic philosophies, dating from
Empedocles, which Darwin worked up into the theory of “natural selection”
through “the survival of the fittest” “in the struggle for existence.” Of
course the assumption necessary to his idea is that the forms of life are
capable of variation, and of continually offering in ceaseless flux new
properties and characters to the sieve of selection, and of being raised
thereby from the originally homogeneous to the heterogeneous, from the
simple to the complex, from the lower to the higher. This is the theory of
descent, and it is, of course, an essential part and the very foundation
of Darwin’s theory. But it is _the doctrine of descent based upon natural
selection_ that is Darwinism itself.

The Characteristic Features of Darwinism.

We do not propose to expound the Darwinian theory for the hundredth time;
a knowledge of it must be taken for granted. We need only briefly call to
mind the characteristic features and catchwords of the theory as Darwin
founded it, which have also been the starting points of subsequent
modifications and controversies.

All living creatures are bound together in genetic solidarity. Everything
has evolved through endless deviations, gradations, and differentiations,
but at the same time by a perfectly continuous process. Variation
continually produced a crop of heterogeneous novelties. The struggle for
existence sifted these out. Heredity fixed and established them. Without
method or plan variations continue to occur (indefinite variations). They
manifest themselves in all manner of minute changes (“fluctuating”
variations). Every part, every function of an organism may be subject
individually to variation and selection. The world is strictly governed by
what is useful. The whole organisation as well as the individual organs
and functions bear the stamp of utility, at least, they must bear it if
the theory is correct. In the general continuity the transitions are
always easy; there are no fundamentally distinct “types,” architectural
plans, or groups of forms. Where gaps yawn the intermediate links have
gone amissing. There is no fundamental difference between _genus_,
_species_, and _variety_. Even the most complicated organ such as the eye,
the most puzzling function such as the instinct of the bee, may be
explained as the outcome of many more primitive stages.

The chief evidences of the theory of descent are to be found in
homologies, in the correspondences of organs and functions, as revealed by
comparative anatomy and physiology, in the recapitulation revealed by
embryology, in the structure of parasites, in rudimentary organs and
reversions to earlier stages, in the distribution of animals and plants,
and in the possibility of still transforming, at least to a slight extent,
one species into another, by experimental breeding.

Transformation and differentiation go on in nature as a vast, ceaseless,
but blind process of selection. In artificial selection evolution is
secured by choosing the most fit for breeding purposes; so it is secured
in natural selection by the favouring and survival of those forms which
are the most fit among the many unfit or less fit, which happened to be
exposed to the struggle for existence, that is, to the competition for the
means of subsistence, to the struggle with enemies, to hostile
environment, and to dangers of every kind. The adaptation thus brought
about is of a purely “passive” kind. The variations arise fortuitously out
of the organism, and present themselves for selection in the struggle for
existence; they are not actively acquired by means of the struggle. The
secondary factors of evolution recognised are: correlation in the growth
and in the development of parts, the origin of new characters through use,
their disappearance through disuse (Lamarck), the transmission of
characters thus acquired, the influence of environment and sexual

The Darwinian theory, the interpretation of the teleological in the
animate world by means of the theory of descent based upon natural
selection, entered like a ferment into the scientific thought-movement,
and in a space of forty years it has itself passed through a series of
stages, differentiations, and transformations which have in part resulted
in the present state of the theory, and have in part anticipated it. These
are represented by the names of workers belonging to a generation which
has for the most part already passed away: Darwin’s collaborateurs, such
as Alfred Russel Wallace, who independently and simultaneously expounded
the theory of natural selection, Haeckel and Fritz Müller, Nägeli and
Askenasy, von Kölliker, Mivart, Romanes and others. The differentiation
and elaboration of Darwin’s theories has gone ever farther and farther;
the grades and shades of doctrine held by his disciples are now almost
beyond reckoning.

Various Forms of Darwinism.

The great majority of these express what may be called popular Darwinism
[“Darwinismus vulgaris”], theoretically worthless, but practically
possessed of great powers of attraction and propagandism. It expresses in
the main a conviction, usually left unexplained, that everything “happens
naturally,” that man is really descended from monkeys, and that life has
“evolved from lower stages” of itself, that dualism is wrong, and that
monism is the truth. It is exactly the standpoint of the popular
naturalism we have already described, which here mingles unsuspectingly
and without scruple Lamarckian and other principles with the Darwinian,
which is enthusiastic on the one hand over the “purely mechanical”
interpretation of nature, and on the other drags in directly psychical
motives, unconscious consciousness, impulses, spontaneous
self-differentiation of organisms, which nevertheless adheres to “monism”
and possibly even professes to share Goethe’s conception of nature!

Above this stratum we come to that of the real experts, the only one which
concerns us in the least. Here too we find an ever-growing distance
between divergent views, the most manifold differences amounting sometimes
to mutual exclusion. These differences occur even with reference to the
fundamental doctrine generally adhered to, the doctrine of descent. To one
party it is a proved fact, to another a probable, scientific working
hypothesis, to a third a “rescuing plank.” One party is always finding
fresh corroborations, another new difficulties. And within the same group
we find the contrasts of believers in monophyletic and believers in
polyphyletic evolution, the mechanists and the half-confessed or
thoroughgoing vitalists, the preformationists and the believers in
epigenesis. Opinions differ even more widely in regard to the _rôle_ of
the “struggle for existence” in the production of species. On the one hand
we have the Darwinism of Darwin freed from inconsequent additions and
formulated as orthodox “neo-Darwinism”; on the other hand we have
heterodox Lamarckism. The “all-sufficiency” of natural selection is
proclaimed by some, its impotence by others. Indefinite variation is
opposed by orthogenesis, fluctuating variation by saltatory mutation
(Halmatogenesis in “Greek”), passive adaptation by the spontaneous
activity and self-regulation of the living organism. The struggle for
existence is variously regarded as the chief factor, or as a co-operating
factor, or as an indifferent, or even an inimical factor in the
origination of new species.

And among the representatives of these different standpoints there are
most interesting personal differences: in some, like Weismann, we find a
great loyalty to, and persistence in the position once arrived at, in
others the most surprising transitions and changes of opinion. Thus
Fleischmann, a pupil of Selenka’s, after illustrating during many years of
personal research the orthodox Darwinian standpoint, finally developed
into an outspoken opponent not only of the theory of selection but of the
doctrine of descent. So also Friedmann.(6) Driesch started from the
mechanical theory of life and advanced through the connected series of his
own biological essays to vitalism. Romanes, a prominent disciple of
Darwin, ended in Christian theism, and Wallace, the discoverer of “the
struggle for existence,” landed in spiritualism.

Nothing like an exhaustive view of the present state of Darwinism and its
many champions can here be attempted. But it will be necessary to get to
know what we may call its possibilities by a study of typical and leading
examples. In the course of our study many of the problems to which the
theory gives rise will reveal themselves, and their orientation will be

This task falls naturally into two subdivisions: (1) the present state of
the theory of Evolution and Descent, and how far the religious conception
of the world is or is not affected by it; (2) the truth as to the
originative and directive factors of Evolution, especially as to “natural
selection in the struggle for existence,” whether they are tenable and
sufficient, and what attitude religion must take towards them. These two
problems must be kept distinct throughout, and must be discussed in order.
For the validity of what is characteristically _Darwinism_ is in no way
decided by proving descent and evolution, although it appears so in most
popular expositions.(7)

The Theory of Descent.

Again and again we hear and read, even in scientific circles and journals,
that Darwinism breaks down at many points, that it is insufficient, and
even that it has quite collapsed. Even the assurances of its most
convinced champions are rather forced, and are somewhat suggestive of
bills payable in the future.(8) But here again it is obvious that we must
distinguish clearly between the Theory of Descent and Darwinism. Of the
Theory of Descent it is by no means true that it has “broken down.” With a
slight exaggeration, but on the whole with justice, Weismann has asserted
that the Theory of Descent is to-day a “generally accepted truth.” Even
Weismann’s most pronounced opponents, such as Eimer, Wolff, Reinke, and
others, are at one with him in this, that there has been evolution in some
form; that there has been a progressive transformation of species; that
there is real (not merely ideal) relationship or affiliation connecting
our modern forms of life, up to and including man, with the lower and
lowest forms of bygone æons.

The evidences are the same as those adduced by Darwin and before his time,
but they have been multiplied and more sharply defined:—namely, that the
forms of life can be arranged in an ascending scale of evolution, both in
their morphological and their physiological aspects, both as regards the
general type and the differentiation of individual organs and particular
characters, bodily and mental. All the rubrics used by Darwin in this
connection, from comparative anatomy, from the palæontological record
itself, and so on, have been filled out with ever-increasing detail.
Palæontology, in particular, is continually furnishing new illustrations
of descent and new evidence of its probability, more telling perhaps in
respect of general features and particular groups than in regard to the
historical process in detail. For certain species and genera palæontology
discloses the primitive forms, discovers “synthetic types” which were the
starting-point for diverging branches of evolution, bridges over or
narrows the yawning gulfs in evolution by the discovery of “intermediate
forms”; and, in the case of certain species, furnishes complete
genealogical trees. The same holds true of the facts of comparative
anatomy, embryology, and so on. In all detailed investigations into an
animal type, in the study of the structure, functions, or the instincts of
an ant, or of a whale or of a tape-worm, the standpoint of the theory of
descent is assumed, and it proves a useful clue for further investigation.

In regard to man—so we are assured—the theory finds confirmation through
the discovery of the Neanderthal, Spy, Schipka, La Naulette skulls and
bones—the remains of a prehistoric human race, with “pithecoid” (ape-like)
characters. And the theory reaches its climax in Dubois’ discovery of the
remains of “Pithecanthropus,” the upright ape-man, in Java, 1891-92, the
long sought-for Missing Link between animals and man;(9) and in the still
more recent proofs of “affinity of blood” between man and ape, furnished
by experiments in transfusion. Friedenthal has revived the older
experiments of transfusing the blood of one animal into another, the blood
of an animal of one species into that of another, of related species into
related species, more remote into more remote, and finally even from
animals into man. The further apart the two species are, the more
different are the physiological characters of the blood, and the more
difficult does a mingling of the two become. Blood of a too distantly
related form does not unite with that of the animal into which it is
transfused, but the red corpuscles of the former are destroyed by the
serum of the latter, break up and are eliminated. In nearly related
species or races, however, the two kinds of blood unite, as in the case of
horse and ass, or of hare and rabbit. Human blood serum behaves in a
hostile fashion to the blood of eel, pigeon, horse, dog, cat, and even to
that of Lemuroids, or that of the more remotely related “non-anthropoid”
monkey; human blood transfused from a negro into a white unites readily,
as does also that of orang-utan transfused into a gibbon. But human blood
also unites without any breaking-up or disturbance with the blood of a
chimpanzee; from which the inference is that man is not to be placed in a
separate sub-order beside the other sub-orders of the Primates, the
platyrrhine and catarrhine monkeys, not even in a distinct sub order
beside the catarrhines; but is to be included with them in one zoological
sub-order. This classification was previously suggested by Selenka on
other grounds, namely, because of the points in common in the embryonic
development of the catarrhine monkeys and of man, and their common
distinctiveness as contrasted with the platyrrhines.(10)

Haeckel’s Evolutionist Position.

The average type of the Theory of Descent of the older or orthodox school,
which still lingers in the background with its Darwinism unshaken, is that
set forth by Haeckel, scientifically in his “Generelle Morphologie der
Organismen” (1866), and “Systematische Phylogenie” (1896), and popularly
in his “Natural History of Creation” and “Riddles of the Universe,” with
their many editions. We may assume that it is well known, and need only
briefly recall its chief characteristics. The “inestimable value,” the
“incomparable significance,” the “immeasurable importance” of the Theory
of Descent lies, according to Haeckel, in the fact that by means of it we
can explain the origin of the forms of life “in a mechanical manner.” The
theory, especially in regard to the descent of man from the apes, is to
him not a working hypothesis or tentative mode of representation; it is a
result comparable to Newton’s law of gravitation or the Kant-Laplace
cosmogony. It is “a certain historical fact.” The proofs of it are those
already mentioned.

What is especially Haeckelian is the “fundamental biogenetic law,”
“ontogeny resembles phylogeny,” that is to say, in development, especially
in embryonic development, the individual recapitulates the history of the
race. Through “palingenesis,” man, for instance, recapitulates his
ancestral stages (protist, gastræad, vermine, piscine, and simian). This
recapitulation is condensed, disarranged, or obscured in detail by
“cenogenesis” or “cænogenesis.” The groups and types of organisms exhibit
the closest genetic solidarity. The genealogical tree of man in particular
runs directly through a whole series. From the realm of the protists it
leads to that of the gastræadæ (nowadays represented by the Cœlentera),
thence into the domain of the worms, touches the hypothetical “primitive
chordates” (for the necessary existence of which “certain proofs” can be
given), the class of tunicates, ascends through the fishes, amphibians and
reptiles to forms parallel to the modern monotremes, then directly through
the marsupials to the placentals, through lemuroids and baboons to the
anthropoid apes, from them to the “famous Pithecanthropus” discovered in
Java, out of which _homo sapiens_ arose. (The easy transition from one
group of forms to another is to be noted. For it is against this point
that most of the opposition has been directed, whether from “grumbling”
critics, or thoroughgoing opponents of the Theory of Descent.)

Haeckel’s facile method of constructing genealogical trees, which ignores
difficulties and discrepant facts, has met with much criticism and
ridicule even among Darwinians. The “orator of Berlin,” Du Bois-Reymond,
declared that if he must read romances he would prefer to read them in
some other form than that of genealogical trees. But they have at least
the merit that they give a vivid impression of what is most plausible and
attractive in the idea of descent, and moreover they have helped towards
orientation in the discussion. Nor can we ignore the very marked taxonomic
and architectonic talent which their construction displays.

Weismann’s Evolutionist Position.

The most characteristic representative, however, of the modern school of
unified and purified Darwinism is not Haeckel, but the Freiburg zoologist,
Weismann. Through a long series of writings he has carried on the conflict
against heterodox, and especially Lamarckian theories of evolution, and
has developed his theories of heredity and the causes of variation, of the
non-transmissibility of acquired characters, and the all-sufficiency of
natural selection. In his latest great work, in two volumes, “Lectures on
the Theory of Descent,”(11) he has definitely summed up and systematised
his views. These will interest us when we come to inquire into the problem
of the factors operative in evolution. For the moment we are only
concerned with his attitude to the Theory of Descent as such. It is
precisely the same as Haeckel’s, although he is opposed to Haeckel in
regard to the strictly Darwinian standpoint. The Theory of Descent has
conquered, and it may be said with assurance, for ever. That is the firm
conviction on which the whole work is based, and it is really rather
treated as a self-evident axiom than as a statement to be proved. Weismann
takes little trouble to prove it. All the well-known, usually very clear
proofs from palæontology, comparative anatomy, &c., which we are
accustomed to meet with in evolutionist books are wanting here, the
genealogical trees of the Equidæ, with the gradually diminishing number of
toes and the varying teeth, of _Planorbis multiformis_, of the ammonites,
the graduated series of stages exhibited by individual organs, for
instance, from the ganglion merely sensitive to light up to the intricate
eye, or from the rayed skeleton of the paired fins in fishes up to the
five-fingered hands and feet of the higher vertebrates, &c. These are only
briefly touched upon in the terse “Introduction,” and the whole of the
comprehensive work is then directed to showing what factors can have been
operative, and to proving that they must have been “Darwinian” (selection
in the struggle for existence), and not Lamarckian or any other. This is
shown in regard to the coloration of animals, the phenomena of mimicry,
the protective arrangements of plants, the development of instinct in
animals, and the origin of flowers.

In reality Weismann only adduces _one_ strict proof, and even that is only
laying special stress on what is well known in comparative embryology;
namely, the possibility of “predicting” on the basis of the theory of
descent, as Leverrier “predicted” Neptune. For instance, in the lower
vertebrates from amphibians upwards there is an _os centrale_ in the
skeleton of wrist, but there is none in man. Now if man be descended from
lower vertebrates, and if the fundamental biogenetic law be true (that
every form of life recapitulates in its own development, especially in its
embryonic development, the evolution of its race, though with
abbreviations and condensations), it may be predicted that the _os
centrale_ is to be found in the early embryonic stages of man. And
Rosenberg found it. In the same way the “gill-clefts” of the fish-like
ancestors have long since been discovered in the embryo of the higher
vertebrates and of man. Weismann himself “predicted” that the markings of
the youngest stage of the caterpillars of the Sphingidæ (hawk-moths) would
be found to be not oblique but longitudinal stripes, and ten years later a
fortunate observation verified the prediction. Because of the abundance of
evidential facts Weismann does not go into any detailed proof of
evolution. “One can hardly take up any work, large or small, on the finer
or more general structural relations, or on the development of any animal,
without finding in it proofs for the evolution theory.”

But assured as the doctrine of descent appears,(12) and certain as it is
that it has not only maintained its hold since Darwin’s day, but has
strengthened it and has gained adherents, this foundation of Darwinism is
nevertheless not the unanimous and inevitable conclusion of all scientific
men in the sense and to the extent that the utterances of Weismann and
others would lead us to suppose. Apart from all apologetic attempts either
in religious, ethical, or æsthetic interests, apart, too, from the
superior standpoint of the philosophers, who have not, so to speak, taken
the theory very seriously, but regard it as a provisional theory, as a
more or less necessary and useful method of grouping our ideas in regard
to the organic world, there are even among the biologists themselves some
who, indifferent towards religious or philosophical or naturalistic dogma,
hold strictly to fact, and renounce with nonchalance any pretensions at
completeness of knowledge if the data do not admit of it, and on these
grounds hold themselves aloof from evolutionist generalisation. From among
these come the counsels of “caution,” admissions that the theory is a
scientific hypothesis and a guide to research, but not knowledge, and
confessions that the Theory of Descent as a whole is verifiable rather as
a general impression than in detail.

Virchow’s Position.

Warnings of this kind have come occasionally from Du Bois-Reymond, but the
true type of this group, and its mode of thought, is Virchow. It will
repay us and suffice us to make acquaintance with it through him. His
opposition to Darwinism and the theory of descent was directed at its most
salient point: the descent of man from the apes. In lectures and
treatises, at zoological and anthropological congresses, especially at the
meetings of his own Anthropological-Ethnological Society in Berlin, from
his “Vorträge über Menschen-und Affen-Schädel” (Lectures on the Skulls of
Man and Apes, 1869), to the disputes over Dubois’ _Pithecanthropus
erectus_ in the middle of the nineties, he threw the whole weight of his
immense learning—ethnological and anthropological, osteological, and above
all “craniological”—into the scale against the Theory of Descent and its
supporters. Virchow has therefore been reckoned often enough among the
anti-Darwinians, and has been quoted by apologists and others as against
Darwinism, and he has given reason for this, since he has often taken the
field against “the Darwinists” or has scoffed at their “longing for a
pro-anthropos.”(13) Sometimes even it has been suggested that he was
actuated by religious motives, as when he occasionally championed not only
freedom for science, but, incidentally, the right of existence for “the
churches,” leaving, for instance, in his theory of psychical life, gaps in
knowledge which faith might occupy in moderation and modesty. But this
last proves nothing. With Virchow’s altogether unemotional nature it is
unlikely that religious or spiritual motives had any rôle in the
establishment of his convictions, and in Haeckel’s naïve blustering at
religion, there is, so to speak, more religion than in the cold-blooded
connivance with which Virchow leaves a few openings in otherwise frozen
ponds for the ducks of faith to swim in! And he has nothing of the pathos
of Du Bois-Reymond’s “ignorabimus.” He is the neutral, prosaic scientist,
who will let nothing “tempt him to a transcendental consideration,”(14)
either theological or naturalistic, who holds tenaciously to matters of
fact, who, without absolutely rejecting a general theory, will not concern
himself about it, except to point out every difficulty in the way of it;
in short, he is the representative of a mood that is the ideal of every
investigator and the despair of every theoriser.

His lecture of 1869 already indicates his subsequent attitude. “Considered
logically and speculatively” the Theory of Descent seems to him
“excellent,”(15) indeed a logical moral(!) hypothesis, but unproved in
itself, and erroneous in many of its particular propositions. As far back
as 1858, before the publication of Darwin’s great work, he stated at the
Naturalists’ Congress in Carlsruhe, that the origin of one species out of
another appeared to him a necessary scientific inference, but——And
throughout the whole lecture he alternates between favourable recognition
of the theory in general, and emphasis of the difficulties which confront
it in detail. The skull, which, according to Goethe’s theory, has evolved
from three modified vertebræ, is fundamentally different in man and
monkeys, both in regard to its externals, crests, ridges and shape, and
especially in regard to the nature of the cavity which it forms for the
brain. Specifically distinctive differences in the development and
structure of the rest of the body must also be taken into account. The
so-called ape-like structures in the skull and the rest of the body, which
occasionally occur in man (idiots, microcephaloids, &c.) cannot be
regarded as atavisms and therefore as proofs of the Theory of Descent;
they are of a pathological nature, entirely facts _sui generis_, and “not
to be placed in a series with the normal results of evolution.” A man
modified by disease “is still thoroughly a man, not a monkey.”

Virchow continued to maintain this attitude and persisted in this kind of
argument. He energetically rejected all attempts to find “pithecoid”
characters in the prehistoric remains of man. He declared the narrow and
less arched forehead, the elliptical form, and the unusually large frontal
cavities of the “Neanderthal skull” found in the Wupperthal in 1856, to be
simply pathological features, which occur as such in certain examples of
_homo sapiens_.(16) He explained the abnormal appearance of the jaw from
the Moravian cave of Schipka as a result of the retention of teeth,(17)
accompanied by directly “antipithecoid” characters.

The proceedings at the meetings of the Ethnological Society in 1895, at
which Dubois was present, had an almost dramatic character.(18) In the
diverse opinions of Dubois, Virchow, Nehring, Kollmann, Krause and others,
we have almost an epitome of the present state of the Darwinian question.
Virchow doubted whether the parts put together by Dubois (the head of a
femur, two molar teeth, and the top of a skull) belonged to the same
individual at all, disputed the calculations as to the large capacity of
the skull, placed against Dubois’ very striking and clever drawing of the
curves of the skull-outline, which illustrated, with the help of the
Pithecanthropus, the gradual transition from the skull of a monkey to that
of man, his own drawing, according to which the Pithecanthropus curve
simply coincides with that of a gibbon (_Hylobates_), and asserted that
the remains discovered were those of a species of gibbon, refusing even to
admit that they represented a new genus of monkeys. He held fast to his
_ceterum censeo_: “As yet no diluvial discovery has been made which can be
referred to a man of a pithecoid type.” Indeed, his polemic or “caution”
in regard to the Theory of Descent went even further. He not only refused
to admit the proof of the descent of man from monkey, he would not even
allow that the descent of one race from another has been demonstrated.(19)
In spite of all the plausible hypotheses it remains “so far only a _pium
desiderium_.” The race obstinately maintains its specific distinctness,
and resists variation, or gradual transformation into another. The negro
remains a negro in America, and the European colonist of Australia remains
a European.

Yet all Virchow’s opposition may be summed up in the characteristic words,
which might almost be called his motto, “I warn you of the need for
caution,” and it is not a seriously-meant rejection of the Theory of
Descent. In reality he holds the evolution-idea as an axiom, and in the
last-named treatise he shows distinctly how he conceives of the process.
He starts with variation (presumably “kaleidoscopic”), which comes about
as a “pathological” phenomenon, that is to say, not spontaneously, but as
the result of environmental stimulus, as the organism’s reaction to
climatic and other conditions of life. The result is an alteration of
previous characteristics, and a new stable race is established by an
“acquired anomaly.”(20)

Other Instances of Dissatisfaction with the Theory of Descent.

What was with Virchow only a suggestion of the need for caution, or
controversial matter to be subsequently allowed for or contradicted, had
more serious consequences to others, and led to still greater hesitancy as
regards evolutionist generalisations and speculations, and sometimes to
sharp antagonism to them.

One of the best known of the earlier examples of this mood is Kerner von
Marilaun’s large and beautiful work on “Plant Life.”(21) He does, indeed,
admit that our species are variations of antecedent forms, but only in a
very limited sense. Within the stocks or grades of organisation which have
always existed, variations have come about, through “hybridisation,”
through the crossing of similar, but relatively different forms; these
variations alter the configuration and appearance in detail, but neither
affect the general character nor cause any transition from “lower” to

Kerner disposes of the chief argument in favour of the theory of descent,
the homology of individual organs, by explaining that the homology is due
to the similarity of function in the different organisms. A similar
argument is used in regard to “ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny.”
Palæontology does not disclose in the plant-world any “synthetic types,”
which might have been the common primitive stock from which many now
divergent branches have sprung, nor does it disclose any “transition
links” really intermediate, for instance, between cryptogams and
gymnosperms, or between gymnosperms and angiosperms. That the higher races
are apparently absent from the earlier strata is not a proof that they
have never existed. The peat-bog flora must have involved the existence of
a large companion-flora, without which the peat could not have been
formed, but all trace of this is absent in the still persistent vestiges
of these times.(22) Life, with energy and matter, has existed as a
phenomenon of the universe from all eternity, and thus its chief forms and
manifestations have not “arisen,” but have always been. If facts such as
these contradict the Kant-Laplace theory of the universe, then the latter
must be corrected in the light of them, not conversely. The extreme
isolation of Kerner and his theory is probably due especially to this
corollary of his views.

Among the most recent examples of antagonism to the Evolution-Theory, the
most interesting is a book by Fleischmann, professor of zoology in
Erlangen, published in 1901, and entitled, “The Theory of Descent.” It
consists of “popular lectures on the rise and decline of a scientific
hypothesis” (namely, the Theory of Descent), and it is a complete
recantation by a quondam Darwinian of the doctrine of his school, even of
its fundamental proposition, the concept of evolution itself. For
Fleischmann is not guilty, like Weismann, of the inaccuracy of using
“Theory of Descent” as equivalent to Darwinism; he is absolutely
indifferent to the theory of natural selection. His book keeps strictly to
matters of fact, and rejects as speculation everything in the least beyond
these; it does not express even an opinion on the question of the origin
of species, but merely criticises and analyses.

It does not bring forward any new and overwhelming arguments in refutation
of the Theory of Descent, but strongly emphasises difficulties that have
always beset it, and discusses these in detail. The old dispute which
interested Goethe, Geoffroy St. Hilaire, and Cuvier, as to the unity or
the fundamental heterogeneity of the “architectural plan” in nature is
revived. Modern zoology recognises not merely the four types of Cuvier,
but seventeen different styles, “phyla,” or groups of forms, to derive one
of which from another is hopeless. And what is true of the whole is true
also of the subdivisions within each phylum; _e.g._, within the vertebrate
phylum with its fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. No bridge
leads from one to the other. This is proved particularly by the very
instance which is the favourite illustration in support of the Theory of
Descent—the fin of fishes and its relation to the five-fingered hand of
vertebrates. The so-called transition forms (Archæopteryx, monotremes,
&c.) are discredited. So with the “stalking-horse” of evolutionists—the
genealogical tree of the Equidæ, which is said to be traceable
palæontologically right back, without a break, from the one-toed horses of
the present day to the normal five-toed ancestry; and so with another
favourite instance of evolution, the history of the pond-snails
(_Planorbis multiformis_), the numerous varieties of which occur with
transitions between them in actual contiguity in the Steinheim beds, and
thus seem to afford an obvious example of the transformation of species.
Against these cases, and against using the palæontological archives as a
basis for the construction of genealogical trees in general, the weighty
and apparently decisive objection is urged, that nowhere are the soft
parts of the earlier forms of life preserved, and that it is impossible to
establish relationships with any certainty on the basis of hard parts
only, such as bones, teeth and shells. Even Haeckel admits that snails of
very different bodily structure may form very similar and even hardly
distinguishable shells.

Fleischmann further asserts that Haeckel’s “fundamental biogenetic law”
has utterly collapsed. “Recapitulation” does not occur. Selenka’s figures
of ovum-segmentation show that there are specific differences in the
individual groups. The origin and development of the blastoderm or
germinal disc has nothing to do with recapitulation of the phylogeny. It
is not the case that the embryos of higher vertebrates are
indistinguishable from one another. Even the egg-cell has a specific
character, and is totally different from any unicellular organism at the
Protistan level. The much-cited “gill-clefts” of higher vertebrates in the
embryonic stage are not persistent reminiscences of earlier lower stages;
they are rudiments or primordia shared by all vertebrates, and developing
differently at the different levels; (thus in fishes they become breathing
organs, and in the higher vertebrates they become in part associated with
the organs of hearing, or in part disappear again).

Though Fleischmann’s vigorous protest against over-hastiness in
construction and over-confidence on the part of the adherents of the
doctrine of descent is very interesting, and may often be justified in
detail, it is difficult to resist the impression that the wheat has been
rejected with the chaff.(23)

Even a layman may raise the following objections: Admitting that the great
groups of forms cannot be traced back to one another, the palæontological
record still proves, though it may be only in general outline, that within
each phylum there has been a gradual succession and ascent of forms. How
is the origin of what is new to be accounted for? Without doing violence
to our thinking, without a sort of intellectual autonomy, we cannot rest
content with the mere fact that new elements occur. So, in spite of all
“difficulties,” the assumption of _an actual descent_ quietly forces
itself upon us as the only satisfactory clue. And the fact, which
Fleischmann does not discuss, that even at present we may observe the
establishment of what are at least new breeds, impels us to accept an
analogous origin of new species. Even if the biogenetic law really “finds
its chief confirmation in its exceptions,” even if we cannot speak of a
strict recapitulation of earlier stages of evolution, there are
indisputable facts which are most readily interpreted as reminiscences, as
due to affiliation (ideal or hereditary), with ancestral forms. (Note, for
instance, Weismann’s “prediction,” &c.(24)) Even if Archæopteryx and other
intermediate forms cannot be regarded as connecting links in the strict
sense, _i.e._, as being stages in the actual pedigree, yet the occurrence
of reptilian and avian peculiarities side by side in one organism, goes
far to prove the close relationship of the two classes.

Fleischmann’s book strengthens the impression gained elsewhere, that a
general survey of the domain of life as a whole gives force and
convincingness to the Theory of Descent, while a study of details often
results in breaking the threads and bringing the difficulties into
prominence. But the same holds true of many other theoretical
constructions, and yet we do not seriously doubt their validity. (Take,
for instance, the Kant-Laplace theory, and theories of ethnology, of the
history of religion, of the history of language, and so on.) And it is
quite commonly to be observed that those who have an expert and specialist
knowledge, who are aware of the refractoriness of detailed facts, often
take up a sceptical attitude towards every comprehensive theory, though
the ultimate use of detailed investigation is to make the construction of
general theories possible. Fleischmann does exactly what, say, an
anthropologist would do if, under the impression of the constancy and
distinctiveness of the human races, which would become stronger the more
deeply he penetrated, he should resignedly renounce all possibility of
affiliating them, and should rest content with the facts as he found them.
Similarly, those who are most intimately acquainted with the races of
domesticated animals often resist most strenuously all attempts, although
these seem to others a matter of course, to derive our “tame” forms from
“wild” species living in freedom.

But to return. Even where the Theory of Descent is recognised, whether
fully or only half-heartedly, the recognition does not always mean the
same thing. Even the adherents of the general, but in itself quite vague
view that a transformation from lower forms to higher, and from similar to
different forms, has taken place, may present so many points of
disagreement, and may even stand in such antagonism to one another, that
onlookers are apt to receive the impression that they occupy quite
different standpoints, and are no longer at one even in the fundamentals
of their hypotheses.

The most diverse questions and answers crop up; whether evolution has been
brought about “monophyletically” or “polyphyletically,” _i.e._, through
one or many genealogical trees; whether it has taken place in a continuous
easy transition from one type to another, or by leaps and bounds; whether
through a gradual transformation of all organs, each varying individually,
or through correlated “kaleidoscopic” variations of many kinds throughout
the whole system; whether it is essentially asymptotic, or whether
organisms pass from “labile” phases of vital equilibrium by various
halting-places to stable states, which are definitive, and are, so to
speak, the blind alleys and terminal points of evolutionary possibilities,
_e.g._, the extinct gigantic saurians, and perhaps also man. And to these
problems must be added the various answers to the question, What precedes,
or may have preceded, the earliest stages of life of which we know? Whence
came the first cell? Whence the first living protoplasm? and How did the
living arise from the inorganic? These deeper questions will occupy us in
our chapter on the theory of life. Some of the former, in certain of their
aspects, will be considered in the sixth chapter, which deals with factors
in evolution.

The Theory of Descent itself and the differences that obtain even among
its adherents can best be studied by considering for a little the works of
Reinke and of Hamann.

Reinke, Professor of Botany in Kiel, has set forth his views in his book,
“Die Welt als Tat,”(25) and more recently in his “Einleitung in die
theoretische Biologie” (1901). Both books are addressed to a wide circle
of readers. Reinke and Hamann both revive some of the arguments and
opinions set forth in the early days of Darwinism by Wigand,(26) an author
whose works are gradually gaining increased appreciation.

It is Reinke’s “unalterable conviction” that organisms have evolved, and
that they have done so after the manner of fan-shaped genealogical trees.
The Theory of Descent is to him an axiom of modern biology, though as a
matter of fact the circumstantial evidence in favour of it is extremely
fragmentary. The main arguments in favour of it appear to him to be the
general ones; the homologies and analogies revealed by comparative
morphology and physiology, the ascending series in the palæontological
record, vestigial organs, parasitic degeneration, the origin of those
vital associations which we call consortism and symbiosis. These he
illustrates mainly by examples from his own special domain and personal

The simplest unicellular forms of life are to be thought of as at the
beginning of evolution; and, since mechanical causes cannot explain their
ascent, it must be assumed that they have an inherent “phylogenetic
potential of development,” which, working epigenetically, results in
ascending evolution. He leaves us to choose between monophyletic and
polyphyletic evolution, but himself inclines towards the latter,
associating with it a rehabilitation of Wigand’s theory of the primitive
cells. If, in the beginning, primitive forms of life arose (probably as
unicellulars) from the not-living, it is not obvious why we need think of
only one so arising, and, if many did so, why they should not have
inherent differences which would at once result in typically different
evolutionary series and groups of forms. But evolution does not go on _ad
libitum_ or _ad infinitum_, for the capacity for differentiation and
transformation gradually diminishes. The organisation passes from a labile
state of equilibrium to an increasingly stable state, and at many points
it may reach a terminus where it comes to a standstill. Man, the dog, the
horse, the cereals, and fruit trees appear to Reinke to have reached their
goal. The preliminary stages he calls “Phylembryos,” because they bear to
the possible outcome of their evolution the same relation that the embryo
does to the perfect individual. Thus, _Phenacodus_ may be regarded as the
Phylembryo of the modern horse. It is quite conceivable that each of our
modern species may have had an independent series of Phylembryos reaching
back to the primitive cells. But the palæontological record, and
especially its synthetic types, lead Reinke rather to assume that instead
of innumerable series, there have been branching genealogical trees, not
one, however, but several.

These views, together or separately, which are characterised chiefly by
the catch-words “polyphyletic descent,” “labile and stable equilibrium,”
and so on, crop up together or separately in the writings of various
evolutionists belonging to the opposition wing. They are usually
associated with a denial of the theory of natural selection, and with
theories of “Orthogenesis,” “Heterogenesis,” and “Epigenesis.”

We shall discuss them later when we are considering the factors in
evolution. But we must first take notice of a work in which the theories
opposed to Darwinian orthodoxy have been most decisively and aggressively
set forth. As far back as 1892 O. Hamann, then a lecturer on zoology in
Göttingen, gathered these together and brought them into the field,
against Haeckel in particular, in his book “Entwicklungslehre und

Hamann’s main theme is that Darwinism overlooks the fact that “there
cannot have been an origin of higher types from types already finished.”
For this “unfortunate and unsupported assumption” there are no proofs in
embryology, palæontology, or anatomy. He adopts and expands the arguments
and anti-Haeckelian deliverances of His in embryology, of Snell and Heer
in palæontology, of Kölliker and von Baer in their special interpretation
of evolution, of Snell particularly as regards the descent of man. It is
impossible to derive Metazoa from Protozoa in their present finished state
of evolution; even the Amoeba is so exactly adapted in organisation and
functional activity to the conditions of its existence that it is a
“finished” type. It is only by a stretch of fancy that fishes can be
derived from worms, or higher vertebrates from fishes. One of his
favourite arguments—and it is a weighty one, though neglected by the
orthodox Darwinians—is that living substance is capable, under similar
stimuli, of developing spontaneously and afresh, at quite different points
and in different groups, similar organs, such as spots sensitive to light,
accumulations of pigment, eye-spots, lenses, complete eyes, and similarly
with the notochord, the excretory organs, and the like. Therefore homology
of organs is no proof of their hereditary affiliation.(28) They rather
illustrate “iterative evolution.”

Another favourite argument is the fact of “Pædogenesis.” Certain animals,
such as _Amphioxus lanceolatus_, _Peripatus_, and certain Medusæ, are very
frequently brought forward as examples of persistent primitive stages and
“transitional connecting links.” But considered from the point of view of
Pædogenesis, they all assume quite a different aspect, and seem rather to
represent very highly evolved species, and to be, not primitive forms, but
conservative and regressive forms. Pædogenesis is the phenomenon exhibited
by a number of species, which may stop short at one of the stages of their
embryonic or larval development, become sexually mature, and produce
offspring without having attained their own fully developed form.

Another argument is the old, suggestive, and really important one urged by
Kölliker, that “inorganic nature shows a natural system among minerals
(crystals) just as much as animals and plants do, yet in the former there
can be no question of any genetic connection in the production of forms.”

Yet another argument is found in the occurrence of “inversions” and
anomalies in the palæontological succession of forms, which to some extent
upsets the Darwinian-Haeckelian genealogical trees. (Thus there are forms
in the Cambrian whose alleged ancestors do not appear till the Silurian.
Foraminifera and other Protozoa do not appear till the Silurian.)

From embryology in particular, as elsewhere in general, we read the
“fundamental biogenetic law,” that evolution is from the general to the
special, from the imperfect to the more perfect, from what is still
indefinite and exuberant to the well-defined and precise, but never from
the special to the special. According to Hamann’s hypothesis we must think
of evolution as going on, so to speak, not about the top but about the
bottom. The phyla or groups of forms are great trunks bearing many
branches and twigs, but not giving rise to one another. Still less do the
little side branches of one trunk bear the whole great trunk of another
animal or plant phylum. But they all grow from the same roots among the
primitive forms of life. Unicellulars these must have been, but not like
our “Protists.” They should be thought of as primitive forms having within
themselves the potentialities of the most diverse and widely separate
evolution-series to which they gave rise, as it were, along diverging
fan-like rays.

It would be instructive to follow some naturalist into his own particular
domain, for instance a palæontologist into the detailed facts of
palæontology, or an embryologist into those of embryology, in order to
learn whether these corroborate the assumptions of the Theory of Descent
or not. It is just in relation to these detailed facts that criticisms or
even denials of the theory have been most frequent. Koken, otherwise a
convinced supporter of the theory, inquires in his “Vorwelt,” _apropos_ of
the tortoises, what has become of the genealogical trees that were
scattered abroad in the world as proved facts in the early days of
Darwinism. He asserts, in regard to _Archæopteryx_, the instance which is
always put forward as the intermediate link in the evolution of birds,
that it does not show in any of its characters a fundamental difference
from any of the birds of to-day, and further, that, through convergent
development under similar influences, similar organs and structural
relations result, iterative arrangements which come about quite
independently of descent. He maintains, too, that the principle of the
struggle for existence is rather disproved than corroborated by the
palæontological record.

In embryology, so competent an authority as O. Hertwig—himself a former
pupil of Haeckel’s—has reacted from the “fundamental biogenetic law.” His
theory of the matter is very much that of Hamann which we have already
discussed; development is not so much a recapitulation of finished
ancestral types as the laying down of foundations after the pattern of
generalised simple forms, not yet specialised; and from these foundations
the special organs rise to different levels and grades of differentiation
according to the type.(29) But we must not lose ourselves in details.

Looking back over the whole field once more, we feel that we are justified
in maintaining with some confidence that the different pronouncements in
regard to the detailed application and particular features of the Theory
of Descent, and the different standpoints that are occupied even by
evolutionists, are at least sufficient to make it obvious that, even if
evolution and descent have actually taken place, they have not run so
simple and smooth a course as the over-confident would have us believe;
that the Theory of Descent rather emphasises than clears away the riddles
and difficulties of the case, and that with the mere corroboration of the
theory we shall have gained only something relatively external, a clue to
creation, which does not so much solve its problems as restate them. The
whole criticism of the “right wing,” from captious objections to actual
denials, proves this indisputably. And it seems likely that in the course
of time a sharpening of the critical insight and temper will give rise to
further reactions from the academic theory as we have come to know it.(30)
On the other hand, it may be assumed with even greater certainty that the
general evolutionist point of view and the great arguments for descent in
some form or other will ultimately be victorious if they are not so
already, and that, sooner or later, we shall take the Theory of Descent in
its most general form as a matter of course, just as we now do the
Kant-Laplace theory.


In seeking to define our position in regard to the theory of descent it is
most important that we should recognise that, when it is looked into
closely, the true problem at issue is not a special zoological one, but is
quite general, and also that it is not a new growth which has sprung up
suddenly and found us unprepared, but that it is very ancient and has long
existed in our midst. In the whole theory the question of “descent” is
after all a mere accessory. Even if it fell through and were seen to be
scientifically undemonstrable, “evolution in the realm of life” would
remain an indisputable fact, and with it there would arise precisely the
same difficulties for the religious interpretation of the world which are
usually attributed to the Theory of Descent.

Evolution or development has been a prominent idea in the history of
thought since the time of Aristotle, but descent is, so to speak, a modern
upstart. According to long-established modes of thought, to _evolve_ means
to pass from δυνάμει to ἰνεργεία εἴναι, from _potentia_ to _actus_, from
the existence of the rudiment as in the seed to full realisation as in the
tree. In the course of its development the organism passes through many
successive phases, which are related to one another like steps, each
rising directly from the one beneath, and preparing for the one above.
Thus all nature, and especially the realm of life, implies a ladder of
“evolution.” What is “potentially” inherent in the lowest form of life has
in the highest, as in man, become actual or “realised” through a
continuous sequence of phases, successively more and more evolved. This
view in its earlier forms was very far from implying that each higher step
was literally “descended” from the one below it, through the physical and
mental transformation of some of its representatives. As the world, in
Aristotle’s view for instance, had existed from all eternity, so also had
the stages and forms of life, each giving rise again to its like. Indeed,
the essential idea was that each higher step is simply a development, a
fuller unfolding of the lower stage, and finally that man was the complete
realisation of what was potentially inherent in the lowest of all.

This doctrine of evolution was in modern times the fundamental idea of
Leibnitz and Kant, of Goethe, Schelling and Hegel. It brought unity and
connectedness into the system of nature, united everything by steps,
denied the existence of gaping chasms, and proclaimed the solidarity of
all the forms of life. But to all this the idea of actual descent was
unnecessary. An actual material variation and transition from one stage to
another seemed to it a wooden and gross expression of the evolution idea,
an “all too childish and nebulous hypothesis” (Hegel).

All the important results of comparative morphology and physiology, which
the modern supporters of the doctrine of descent so confidently utilise as
arguments in its favour, would have been welcomed by those who held the
original and general evolution idea, as a corroboration of their own
standpoint. And as a matter of fact they all afford conclusive proofs of
_evolution_; but not one of them, including even the fundamental
biogenetic law and the inoculated chimpanzee, is decisive in regard to
_descent_. This contention is sufficiently important to claim our
attention for a little. Let us take the last example. Transfusion of blood
between two species is possible, not necessarily because they are
descended from one another or from a common root, but solely because of
their systematic (ideal) relationship, that is to say because they are
sufficiently near to one another and like one another in their
physiological qualities and functions. If, assuming descent, this homology
were disturbed, and the systematic relationship done away with, for
instance through saltatory evolution, the mere fact of descent would not
bring the two species any nearer one another. Thus the case proves only
systematic relationship, and only evolution. But as to the meaning of this
systematic relationship, whether it can be “explained” by descent, whether
it has existed from all eternity, or how it has arisen, the experiment
does not inform us.

The same idea may be illustrated in regard to Weismann’s “predicting.”
This, too, is a proof of evolution, but not of descent. Exactly as
Weismann predicted the striping of the hawk-moth caterpillars and the
human _os centrale_, Goethe predicted the formation of the skull from
modified vertebræ, and the premaxillary bone in man. In precisely the same
way he “derived” the cavities in the human skull from those of the animal
skull. This was quite in keeping with the manner and style of his Goddess
Nature and her creative transformations, raising the type of her creations
from stage to stage, developing and expanding each new type from an
earlier one, yet keeping the later analogous to and recapitulative of the
earlier, recording the earlier by means of vestigial and gradually
dwindling parts.

But what has all this to do with descent? Even the “biogenetic law”
itself, especially if it were correct, would fit admirably into the frame
of the pure evolution idea. For it is quite consistent with that idea to
say that the higher type in the course of its development, especially in
its embryonic stages, passes through stages representative of the forms of
life which are below it and precede it in the (ideal) genealogical tree.
Indeed, the older doctrine of evolution took account of this long ago.

“The same step-ladder which is exhibited by the whole animal kingdom, the
steps of which are the different races and classes, with at the one
extreme the lowliest animals and at the other the highest, is exhibited
also by every higher animal in its development, since from the moment of
its origin until it has reached its full development it passes
through—both as regards internal and external organisation—the essentials
of all the forms which become permanent for a lifetime in the animals
lower than itself. The more perfect the animal is, the longer is the
series of forms it passes through.”

So J. Fr. Meckel wrote in 1812 in his “Handbook of Pathological Anatomy,”
_with no thought of descent_. And the facts which led to the construction
of the biogenetic law were discovered in no small measure by Agassiz, who
was an opponent of the doctrine of descent.(31)

But the advance from the doctrine of evolution to that of descent was
imperatively prompted by a recognition of the fact that the earth is not
from everlasting, and that the forms of life upon it are likewise not from
everlasting, that, in fact, their several grades appear in an orderly
ascending series. It is therefore simpler and more plausible to suppose
that each higher step has arisen from the one before it, than to suppose
that each has, so to speak, begun an evolution on its own account. A
series of corroborative arguments might be adduced, and there is no doubt,
as we have said before, that the transition from the general idea of
evolution to that of descent will be fully accomplished. But it is plain
that the special idea of descent contributes nothing essentially new on
the subject.

It is an oft-repeated and self-evident statement, that it is in reality a
matter of entire indifference whether man arose from the dust of the earth
or from living matter already formed, or, let us say, from one of the
higher vertebrates. The question still would be, how much or how little of
any of them does he still retain, and how far does he differ from all?
Even if there be really descent, the difference may quite as well be so
great—for instance, through saltatory development—that man, in spite of
physical relationship, might belong to quite a new category far
transcending all his ancestors in his intellectual characteristics, in his
emotional and moral qualities. There is nothing against the assumption,
and there is much to be said in its favour, that the last step from animal
to man was such an immense one that it brought with it a freedom and
richness of psychical life incomparable with anything that had gone
before—as if life here realised itself for the first time in very truth,
and made everything that previously had been a mere preliminary play.

On the other hand, even were there no descent but separate individual
creation, man might, in virtue of his ideal relationship and evolution,
appear nothing more than a stage relatively separate from those beneath
him in evolution. It was not the doctrine of descent, it was the doctrine
of evolution that first ranked man in a series with the rest of creation,
and regarded him as the development of what is beneath him and leads up to
him through a gradual sequence of stages. And his nearness, analogy, or
relationship to what is beneath him is in no way increased by descent, or
rendered a whit more intimate or more disturbing.

The Problema Continui.

The problem of descent thus shows itself to be one which has neither
isolated character nor special value. It is an accessory accompaniment of
all the questions and problems which have been raised by, or are
associated with, the doctrine of evolution, which would have been in our
midst without Darwin, which are made neither easier nor more difficult by
zoological knowledge, and the difficulties of which, if solved, would
solve at the same time any difficulties presented by descent. The
following considerations will serve to make this clear. The most
oppressive corollary of the doctrine of descent is undoubtedly that
through it the human race seems to become lost in the infra-human, from
which it cannot be separated by any hard and fast boundaries, or absolute
lines of demarcation. But it is easy to see that this problem is in fact
only a part of a larger problem, and that it can really be solved only
through the larger one. Even if it were possible to do away with this
unpleasing inference as regards the whole human race, so that it could be
in some way separated off securely from the animal kingdom, the same
fatality would remain in regard to each individual human being. For we
have here to face the problem of individual development by easy
transitions, the ascent from the animal to the human state, and the
question: When is there really soul and spirit, when man and ego, when
freedom and responsibility? But this is the same problem again, only
written with smaller letters, the general _problema continui_ in the
domain of life and mind. And the problem is very far-reaching. In all
questions concerning mental health and disease, abnormalities or cases of
arrest at an early stage of mental development, concerning the greater or
less degree of endowment for intellectual, moral, and religious life, down
to utter absence of capacity, and this in relation to individuals as well
as races and peoples, and times; and again, concerning the gradual
development of the ethical and religious consciousness in the long course
of history, in its continuity and gradual transition from lower to higher
forms: everywhere we meet this same _problema continui_. And our
oppressive difficulty is bound up with this problem, and can be dispelled
only by its solution, for the gist of the difficulty is nothing else than
the _gradualness of human becoming_.

This is not the place for a thoroughgoing discussion of this _problema
continui_. We can only call to mind here that the “evolution idea” has
been the doctrine of the great philosophical systems from Aristotle to
Leibnitz, and of the great German idealist philosophers, in whose school
the religious interpretation of the world is at home. We may briefly
emphasise the most important considerations to be kept in mind in forming
a judgment as to gradual development.

1. To recognise anything as in course of evolving does not mean that we
understand its “becoming.” The true inwardness of “becoming” is hidden in
the mystery of the transcendental.

2. The gradual origin of the highest and most perfect from the primitive
in no way affects the specific character, the uniqueness and newness of
the highest stage, when compared with its antecedents. For, close as each
step is to the one below, and directly as it seems to arise out of it,
each higher step has a minimum and differentia of newness (or at least an
individual grouping of the elements of the old), which the preceding stage
does not explain, or for which it is not a sufficient reason, but which
emerges as new from the very heart of things.

3. Evolution does not diminish the absolute value of the perfect stage,
which is incomparably greater than the value of the intermediate stages,
it rather accentuates it. The stages from the half-developed acorn-shoot
are not equivalent in value to the perfect tree; they are to it as means
to an end, and are of minimal value compared with it.

4. All “descent” and “evolution,” which, even in regard to the gradual
development of physical organisation and its secrets, offer not so much an
explanation as a clue, are still less sufficient in regard to the origin
and growth of psychical capacity in general, and in relation to the
awakening and autonomy of the mind in man, because the psychical and
spiritual cannot be explained in terms of physiological processes, from
either the quantity or the quality of nervous structure.

This problem, and the relation of the human spirit to the animal mind,
will fall to be dealt with in Chapter XI. It is neither the right nor the
duty of the religious conception of the world to inquire into and choose
between the different forms of the idea of descent which we have met with.
If it has made itself master of the general evolution idea, then descent,
even in its most gradual, continuous, monophyletic form, affects it not at
all. It can then look on, perhaps not with joy, but certainly without
anxiety, at Dubois’ monkey-man and Friedenthal’s chimpanzee. On the other
hand, it is obvious that a secret bond of sympathy will always unite it
with the right wing of the theory of descent, with the champions of
“halmatogenesis,”(32) heterogenesis,(33) kaleidoscopic readjustment, &c.,
because in all these the depth and wealth and the mystery of phenomena are
more obviously recognisable. For the same reasons the religious outlook
must always be interested in all protests against over-hastiness, against
too great confidence in hypotheses, and against too rapid simplification
and formulation. And it is not going beyond our province to place some
reliance on the fact that there are increasing signs of revolt from the
too great confidence hitherto shown in relation to the Theory of Descent.
The general frame of the theory will certainly never be broken, but the
enclosed picture of natural evolution will be less plain and plausible,
more complex and subtle, more full of points of interrogation and
recognitions of the limits of our knowledge and the depths of things.


It remains for us to consider what is essentially Darwinian in Darwinism,
namely, the theory of natural selection as the determining factor in
evolution. For, given the reality of evolution and descent, and that
transformations from one form to another, from lower to higher, have
really taken place, what was the guiding and impelling factor in
evolution, what forced it forwards and upwards? It is here that the real
problem of Darwinism begins. Only from this point onwards does the
doctrine of evolution, which is not in itself necessarily committed to any
theory of the factors, become definitely Darwinian or anti-Darwinian. And
it is this problem that is mainly concerned in the discussions taking
place to-day as to whether Darwin was right, or whether Darwinism as a
hypothesis has not broken down.

The most characteristic feature of Darwin’s theory was “natural
teleology,” that is, the explanation of what is apparently full of purpose
and plan in the world, purely as the necessary consequence of very simple
conditions, without purpose or any striving after an aim. He sought to
show that evolution and ascent can be realised through purely “natural”
causes, that this world of life, man included, must have come about, but
not because it was intended so to do. In this sense, indeed, his doctrine
is an attempt to do away with teleology. But in another sense it is so
even more emphatically. The world, and especially the world of life, is
undoubtedly full of what is _de facto_ purposive. The living organism, as
a whole and in every one of its parts, is marvellously adapted to the end
of performing its functions, maintaining its own life and reproducing.
Every single living being is a miracle of inexhaustible adaptations to an
end. Whence came these? They, too, are products, unsought for, unintended,
and yet necessary, and coming about “of themselves,” that is without
teleological or any supernatural guiding principles. To eliminate purpose
and the purposive creating and guiding activity of transcendental
principles from interpretations of nature, and to introduce purely
naturalistic principles—“principles of chance,” if we understand chance in
this connection not as opposed to necessity, but to plan and purpose—this
is the aim of the Darwinian theory. And it only becomes definitely
anti-theological because it is anti-teleological.

The conclusions which Darwin arrived at as to the factors in the
transformation of species, and in the production of “adaptations,” have
been in part supported by the specialists he influenced, in part
strengthened, but in part modified and even reversed, so that a great
crisis has come about in regard to Darwinism in the strict sense—a crisis
which threatens to be fatal to it. We must here attempt to take a general
survey of the state of the question and to define our own position.

Darwin’s interpretation is well known. It is the theory of the natural
selection of the best adapted through the struggle for existence, which is
of itself a natural selection, and results in the sifting out of
particular forms and of higher forms. Darwin’s thinking follows the course
that all anti-teleological thought has followed since the earliest times.
In bringing forth the forms of life, nature offers, without choice or aim
or intention, a wealth of possibilities. The forms which happen to be best
adapted to the surrounding conditions of life maintain themselves, and
reproduce; the others perish, and are eliminated (survival of the
fittest). Thus arises adaptation at first in the rough, but gradually in
more and more minute detail. This adaptation, brought about by chance,
gives _the impression_ of intelligent creative purpose.

In Darwin this fundamental mode of naturalistic interpretation took, under
the influence of the social-economic theories of Malthus, the special form
of natural selection by means of the struggle for existence, in
association with the assumption of unlimited and fluctuating variability
in the forms of life. All living beings have a tendency to increase in
number without limit. But the means of subsistence and other conditions of
existence do not increase at the same rate; they are relatively constant.
Thus competition must come about. Any organism that is, by fortuitous
variation, more favourably equipped than its fellows maintains itself and
reproduces itself; the less favoured perish. For all things living are
exposed to enemies, to untoward circumstances, and the like. Every
individual favoured above its rivals persists, and can transmit to its
descendants its own more favourable, more differentiated, more highly
equipped character. Thus evolution is begun, and is forced on into the
ever more diverse and ever “higher.”

To Darwin this struggle for existence and this selection according to
utility seemed, at any rate, the chief factor in progress. He did, indeed,
make some concessions to the Lamarckian principle that new characters may
be acquired by increased use, and to other “secondary” principles. But
these are of small importance as compared with his main factor.

Differences of Opinion As To the Factors In Evolution.

The theory of natural selection in the struggle for existence rapidly
gained wide acceptance, but from the first it was called in question from
many sides. Bronn, who translated Darwin’s works into German, was and
remained loyal to the idea of a “developmental law”—that there is within
the organism an innate tendency towards self-differentiation and progress,
thus a purely teleological principle.(34) Similarly, von Baer emphasised
the idea of an endeavour to realise an aim; von Kölliker, that of
“heterogenesis”; Nägeli, that of an impulse towards perfection—all three
thus recognising the theory of evolution, but dissenting from the view
that the struggle for existence is the impelling factor and actual guide
in the process. Very soon, in another direction, antagonism became
pronounced between the strictly Darwinian elements of the theory (the
struggle for existence and its corollaries) and the accessory Lamarckian
elements. Through these and other controversies the present state of the
question has emerged.

The main antithesis at present is the following. On the one side, the
“all-sufficiency of natural selection” is maintained, that is, progressive
evolution is regarded as coming about without direct self-exertion on the
part of the organisms themselves, simply through the fact that fortuitous
variations are continually presenting themselves, and are being selected
and established according to their utility in the struggle for existence.
On the other side—with Lamarck—the progress is regarded as due to effort
and function on the part of the organism itself. (Increased use of an
organ strengthens it; a changed use transforms it; disuse causes it to
degenerate. Thus new characters appear, old ones pass away, and in the
course of thousands of years the manifold diversity of the forms of life
has been brought about.)

Further, by those of the one side variation is regarded as occurring by
the smallest steps that could have selective value in the struggle for
existence. To the others variation seems to have taken place by leaps and
bounds, with relatively sudden transformations of the functional and
structural equilibrium on a large scale. In regard to these the _rôle_ of
the struggle for existence must be merely subsidiary. This saltatory kind
of evolution-process is called “halmatogenesis,” or, more neatly,
“kaleidoscopic variation,” because, as the pictures in a kaleidoscope
change not gradually but by a sudden leap to an essentially new pattern,
so also do the forms of life. Associated with this is the following
contrast. One side believes in free and independent variation of any
organ, any part, any function, physical or mental, any instinct, and so
on, apart from change or persistence in the rest of the organism; the
other side believes in the close connectedness of every part with the
whole, in the strict “correlation” of all parts, in variation in one part
being always simultaneously associated with variation in many other parts,
all being comprised in the “whole,” which is above and before all the
parts and determines them. And further, to one school variation seems
without plan in all directions, simply plus or minus on either side of a
mean; to the other, variation seems predetermined and in a definite
direction—an “orthogenesis,” in fact, which is inherent in the organism,
and which is indifferent to utility or disadvantage, or natural selection,
or anything else, but simply follows its prescribed path in obedience to
innate law. The representatives of this last position differ again among
themselves. Some regard it as true in detail, in regard, for instance, to
the markings of a butterfly’s wing, the striping of a caterpillar, the
development of spots on a lizard; while others regard it as governing the
general process of evolution as a whole. Finally, there is the most
important contrast of all. On the one side, subordination, passivity,
complete dependence on the selective or directive factors in evolution,
which alone have any power; on the other, activity, spontaneous power of
adaptation and transformation, the relative freedom of all things living,
and—the deepest answer to the question of the controlling force in
evolution—_the secret of life_. This last contrast goes deeper even than
the one we have already noted, that between the Darwinian and the
Lamarckian principle of explanation; and it leads ultimately from the
special Darwinian problem to quite a new one, to be solved by itself—the
problem of the nature and secret of living matter.


In regard to almost all the points to which we have referred, the most
consistent and decided champion of Darwinism in its essential principles
is the zoologist of Freiburg, August Weismann.(35) In long chapters on the
protective coloration of animals, on the phenomena of mimicry—that
resemblance to foreign objects (leaves, pieces of wood, bark, and
well-protected animals) by which the mimics secure their own safety from
enemies—on the protective devices in plants, the selective value of “the
useful” is demonstrated. In regard to the marvellous phenomena of
“carnivorous” plants, the still more marvellous instincts of animals,
which cannot be interpreted on Lamarckian lines as “inherited habit,” but
only as due to the cumulative influence of selection on inborn tendencies,
as well as in regard to “symbiosis,” “the origin of flowers,” and so on,
he attempts to show that the heterodox attempts at explanation are
insufficient, and that selection alone really explains. At the same time
the Darwinian principle is carried still further. It is not only among the
individuals, the “persons,” that the selective struggle for existence goes
on. Personal selection depends upon a “germinal selection” within the
germ-plasm, influencing it, and being influenced by it—for instance,

In order to explain the mystery of heredity, Weismann long ago elaborated,
in his germ-plasm theory, the doctrine that the developing individual is
materially preformed, or rather predetermined in the “idants” and “ids” of
the germ-cell. Thus every one of its physical characters (and, through
these, its psychical characters), down to hairs, skin spots, and
birth-marks, is represented in the “id” by “determinants” which control
the “determinates” in development. In the course of their growth and
development these determinants are subject to diverse influences due to
the position they happen to occupy, to their quality, to changes in the
nutritive conditions, and so on. Through these influences variations in
the determinants may be brought about. And thus there comes about a
“struggle” and a process of selection among the determinants, the result
of which is expressed in changes in the determinates, in the direction of
greater or less development. On this basis Weismann attempts to reach
explanations of the phenomena of variation, of many apparently Lamarckian
phenomena, and of recognised cases of “orthogenesis,” and seeks to
complete and deepen Roux’s theory of the “struggle of parts,” which was
just another attempt to carry Darwinism within the organism.

What distinguishes Weismann, and makes him especially useful for our
present purpose of coming to an understanding in regard to the theory of
selection is, that his views are unified, definite and consistent. In his
case we have not to clear up the ground and to follow things out to their
conclusions, nor to purge his theories from irrelevant, vitalistic, or
pantheistic accessory theories, as we have, for instance, in the case of
Haeckel. His book, too, is kept strictly within its own limits, and does
not attempt to formulate a theory of the universe in general, or even a
new religion on the basis of biological theories. Let us therefore inquire
what has to be said in regard to this clearest and best statement of the
theory of selection when we consider it from the point of view of the
religious conception of the world.

Whatever else may be said as to the all-sufficiency of natural selection
there can be no doubt that it presupposes two absolute mysteries which
defy naturalistic explanation and every other, and which are so important
that in comparison with them the problem of the struggle for efficacy and
its meaning fades into insignificance. These are the functions and
capacities of living organisms in general, and in particular those of
variation and inheritance, of development and self-differentiation. What
is, and whence comes this mysterious power of the organism to build itself
up from the smallest beginnings, from the germ? And the equally mysterious
power of faithfully repeating the type of its ancestors? And, again, of
varying and becoming different from its ancestors? Even the “mechanical”
theory of selection is forced to presuppose the secret of life. Weismann
indeed attempts to solve this riddle through his germ-plasm theory, the
predisposition of the future organism in the “ids,” determinants, and
biophors, and through the variation of the determinants in germinal
selection, amphimixis and so on. But this is after all only shifting the
problem to another place, and translating the mystery into algebraical
terms, so to speak, into symbols with which one can calculate and work for
a little, which formulate a definite series of observations, an orderly
sequence of phenomena, which are, however, after all, “unknown quantities”
that explain nothing.

In order to explain the developing organism Weismann assumes that each of
its organs or parts, or “independent regions,” is represented in the
germ-plasm by a determinant, upon the fate of which the development of the
future determinate depends. It is thought of as a very minute corpuscle of
living matter. Thus there are determinants of hairs and scales, pieces of
skin, pits, marks, &c. But every determined organ, or part, or
“independent region,” is itself in its turn an “organism,” is indeed a
system of an infinite number of interrelated component parts, and each of
these again is another, down to the individual cells. And each cell is an
“organism” in itself, and so on into infinity. Is all this represented in
the determinants? And how?

Further, the individual determinate, for instance of a piece of skin, is
not something isolated, but passes over without definite boundary into
others. Therefore the determinants also cannot be isolated, but must be
systems within systems, dependent upon and merging into one another. How,
at the building up of the organism, do the determinants find their
direction and their localisation? And, especially, how do they set to work
to build up their organ? Here the whole riddle of the theory of
epigenesis, which Weismann wished to do away with as a mystery, is
repeated a thousand times and made more difficult. In order to explain
puzzling processes on a large scale, others have been constructed, which
on close investigation prove to be just the same mysterious and
unexplained processes, only made infinitely smaller.

Moreover, even if the whole of “Weismannism,” including germinal
selection, could be accepted, and if it were as sufficient as it is
insufficient, what we advanced at the end of Chapter III. as a standpoint
of general validity in relation to teleology and theology would still hold
good. Even an entirely naïve, anthropomorphic, “supernatural” theology is
ready to see, in the natural course of things, in the “_causæ
secundariæ,_” the realisation of Divine purpose, teleology, and does not
fail to recognise that the Divine purpose may fulfil itself not only in an
extraordinary manner, through “miracles” and “unconditioned” events, but
also in ordinary ways, “through means” and the universal causal nexus.
Thus it is quite consistent even with a theology of this kind to regard
the whole system of causes and effects, which, according to the
Darwin-Weismann doctrine, have gradually brought forth the whole diversity
of the world of life, with man at its head, in a purely causal way without
teleological intervention, as an immense system of means marvellous in its
intricacy, in the inevitable necessity of its inter-relations, and in the
exactness of its work, the ultimate result of which _must_ have come
about, but perhaps at the same time was _intended_ to come about. Whether
I regard this ultimate result as the mere consequence of blind happenings,
or as an intended purpose, does not depend, as we have seen, upon the
knowledge gained by natural science, but depends above all on whether this
ultimate result seems to me of sufficient _value_ to be thought of as the
purpose of a world-governing intelligence, and thus depends upon my
personal attitude to human nature, reason, mind, and the spiritual,
religious, and moral life. If I venture to attribute worth, and absolute
worth, to these things, nothing, not even the fact of the “struggle for
existence” in its thousand forms, in its gradually transforming effects,
in the almost endless nexus of its causes and results, germinal selection
included, can take away my right (and eventually my duty) to regard the
ultimate result _as an end_, and the nexus of causes as a system of means.
To enable me to do this, it is only requisite that internal necessity
should govern the system, and that the result should not be a chance one,
so that it might even have been suppressed, have failed, or have turned
out quite differently. Necessity and predetermination are characteristic
of the relation between means and purpose. But this requisite is precisely
that which natural science does afford us,—namely, the proof that all
phenomena are strictly governed by law, and are absolutely predetermined
by their antecedents. At this point the religious and the scientific
consideration coincide exactly. The hairs of our head, and the hairs in
the fur of a polar bear, which is varying towards white, and is therefore
selected in the struggle for existence,(36) even the fluctuating
variations of a determinant in the germ, are “numbered” according to both
conceptions. Every variation that cropped up, every factor that “selected”
the fit, and eliminated the unfit, was strictly predestined, and must of
necessity have appeared as, and when, and where it did appear.(37)

The whole nexus of conditions and results, the inclined plane of evolution
and the power of Being to move up it, has its sufficient reason in the
nature and original state of the cosmos, in the constitution of its
“matter,” its “energy,” its laws, its sequences and the grouping of its
phenomena. Only from beginnings so constituted could our present world
have come to be as it is, and that necessarily. Only because the primary
possibility and fitness for life—vegetable, animal and human—was in it
from the beginning, could all these have come to be. This primary
possibility did not “come into being,” it was _à priori_ immanent in it.
Whence came this? There is no logical, comprehensible, or any other
necessity why there should be a world at all, or why it should be such
that life and evolution must become part of it. Where then lies the reason
why it is, rather than is not, and why it is as it is?

To this must be added what Weismann himself readily admits and expressly
emphasises. The whole theory treats, and must treat plant, animal, and man
as only ingenious machines, mere systems of physical processes. This is
the ideal aimed at—to interpret all the phenomena of life, growth, and
reproduction thus. Even instincts and mental endowments are so
interpreted, since there must be corresponding morphological variations of
the fine structure of the nervous organ, and instinctive actions are then
“explained” as the functions of these. But how “mechanical happening”
comes to have this marvellous inwardness, which we call sensation,
feeling, perception, thought and will, which is neither mechanical nor
derivable from anything mechanical; and, further, how physical and
psychical can condition one another without doing violence to the law of
the conservation of the sum of energy, is an absolute riddle. But this
whole psychical world exists, with graduated stages perhaps as close to
each other as in the physical world, but even less capable than these of
being explained as having arisen out of their antecedent lower stages. And
this psychical world, which is, indeed, related to and dependent upon the
corporeal life, as also conversely, has its own quite peculiar laws:
thought does not follow natural laws, but those of logic, which is
entirely indifferent to exciting stimuli, for instance of the brain, which
conform to natural laws. But this world, its riddles and mysteries, its
great content and its history, beyond the reach of mechanical theories, is
so absolutely the main thing (especially in regard to the question of the
possibility of religion), that the question of bodily structure and
evolution becomes beside it a mere accessory problem, and even the last is
only a relatively unimportant roundabout way of coming at the gist of the
business. How completely the evolution of the higher mental faculties
transcends such narrow and meagre formulæ as the struggle for existence
and the like, Weismann himself indicates in connection with man’s musical
sense, and its relation to the “musical” instinct in animals. The same and
much more might be alleged in regard to the whole world of mind, of the
æsthetic, ethical and religious, of the kingdom of thought, of science,
and of poetry.

Natural Selection.

We have for the moment provisionally admitted the theory of natural
selection, in order to see whether it could be included in a religious
interpretation of things. But in reality such an admission is not to be
thought of, in face of what is at present so apparent—the breaking down of
this hypothesis, which has been upheld with so much persistence. We shall
have to occupy ourselves with this later on. In the meantime a few more
remarks must be added to what has been already said.

It might be said, paradoxically, that the worst fate that could befall
this hypothesis would be to be proved, for then it would be most certainly
refuted. What we mean is this: If it is really “utility” that rules the
world and things, there can be no certainty and objectivity of knowledge,
no guarantee of truth. The “struggle for existence” is not concerned with
selecting beings who see the world as it is. It selects only the
interpretation and conception of the environment that is most serviceable
for the existence and maintenance of the species. But there is nothing to
guarantee that the “true” knowledge will also be the most useful. It might
quite well be that an entirely subjective and in itself wholly false
interpretation would be the most serviceable. And if, by some
extraordinary chance, the selected interpretation should be also the true
one, there would be no means of establishing the fact. And what is true of
this interpretation is true also of all theories that are derived from it,
for example of the theory of selection itself.

Furthermore, a great part, perhaps the greatest part of the confidence
placed in the theory of selection is due to an involuntary, but entirely
fallacious habit of crediting it with the probabilities in favour of the
doctrine of descent. The main arguments in favour of evolution and descent
are very often, though unwittingly, adduced in support of Darwinism in
particular. This is a great mistake. Take, for instance, the evidence of
the “palæontological” record. It affords hundreds of proofs of evolution,
but not a single proof of selection. Its “intermediate” and “connecting
links” do possibly prove the affiliation of species and the validity of
genealogical trees. But precisely the “intermediate links” which
_selection_ requires—the myriads of forms of life which were not
successfully adapted, the unfit competitors in the struggle for existence
which must have accompanied the favourably adapted variants from step to
step, from generation to generation—these are altogether awanting.

Another circumstance seems to us to have been entirely overlooked, and it
is one which gives the theory of selection an inevitable appearance of
truth, even if it is essentially false, and thus makes it very difficult
to refute. Assuming that the recognition of teleological factors is valid,
that there is an inward law of development, that “Moses” or whoever one
will was undoubtedly right, it is self-evident that, because of the
indubitable over-production of organisms, there would even then be a
struggle for existence on an immense scale, and that it would have a
far-reaching “selective” influence, because of the relative plasticity of
many forms of life. Beyond doubt it would, in the course of æons, have
applied its shears to many forms of life, and probably there would be no
organisms, organs, or associations in the evolution of the ultimate form
of which it had not energetically co-operated. Its influence would,
perhaps, be omnipresent, yet it might be far from being the all-sufficient
factor in evolution; indeed, as far as the actual impulse of evolution is
concerned, it might be a mere accessory. Unless we are to think of the
forms of life as wholly passive and wooden, the struggle for existence
must necessarily be operative, and the magnitude of its results, and their
striking and often bizarre outcome, will tend ever anew to conceal the
fact that the struggle is after all only an inevitable accompaniment of
evolution. And thus we understand how it is that interpretations from the
point of view of an inward law of development, of orthogenesis, or of
teleology, notwithstanding their inherent validity, have _à priori_ always
had a relatively difficult position as compared with the Darwinian view.

It is usual to speak of the “all-sufficiency of natural selection,” yet
the champion of the selection-theory admits, as he needs must, that the
struggle for existence and selection can of themselves create absolutely
nothing, no new character, no new or higher combination of the vital
elements; they can only take what is already given; they can only select
and eliminate among the wealth of what is offered.(38) And the offerer is
Life itself by virtue of its mysterious capacity for boundless and
inexhaustible variability, self-enrichment and increase. The “struggle for
existence” only digs the bed through which life’s stream flows, draws the
guiding-line, and continually stimulates it to some fresh revelation of
its wealth. But this wealth was there from the beginning; it was, to use
the old word, “potential” in the living, and included with it in the
universal being from which life was called forth. The struggle for
existence is only the steel which strikes the spark from the flint; is,
with its infinite forms and components, only the incredibly complex
channel through which life forces its way upwards. If we keep this clearly
in mind, the alarming and ominous element in the theory shrinks to half
its dimensions.

And, finally, if we can rid ourselves of the peculiar fascination which
this theory exercises, we soon begin to discover what extraordinary
improbability and fundamental artificiality it implies. “Utility” is
maintained to be that which absolutely, almost tyrannically, determines
form and development in the realm of the living. Is this an idea that
finds any analogy elsewhere in nature? Those who uphold the theory most
strongly are wont to compare the development of organisms to
crystal-formation in order in some way to tack on the living to the
not-living. Crystal-formation, with its processes of movement and
form-development, is, they say, a kind of connecting link between the
living and the not-living. And in truth we find here, as in the realm of
life, species-formation, development into individuals, stages and systems.
But all this takes place without any hint of “struggle for existence,” of
laboriously “selective” processes, or of ingenious accumulation of
“variations.” The “species” of crystals are formed not according to
utility, but according to inherent, determining laws of development, to
which the diversity of their individual appearances is due. If “Life” were
only a higher potential of what is already stirring in crystallisation, as
this view suggests, then we should expect to find fixed tendencies,
determined from within, in accordance with which life would pass through
the cycle of its forms and possibilities, and rise spontaneously through
gradual stages.


Let us turn now to the other side. What is opposed to Darwinism in the
biological investigations of the experts of to-day is in part simple
criticism of the Darwinian position as a whole or in some of its details,
and in part constructive individual theories and interpretations of the
evolution of organisms.

A. Fleischmann’s book, “Die Darwinsche Theorie,”(39) is professedly only
critical. He suggests no theory of his own as to the evolution of life in
contrast to Darwin’s; for, as we have already seen in connection with his
earlier book, “Die Deszendenztheorie,” he denies evolution altogether. His
agnostic position is maintained, if possible, more resolutely than before.
Natural science, according to him, must keep to facts. Drawing conclusions
and spinning theories is inexact, and distracts from objective study. The
Darwinian theory of selection seems to him a particularly good example of
this, for it is built up _à priori_ on theories and hypotheses, it stands
apart from experimentation, and it twists facts forcibly to its own ends.
It has, however, to be acknowledged that Fleischmann’s book is without any
“apologetic” intentions. It holds equally aloof from teleology. To seek
for purposes and aims in nature he holds to be outside the business of
science, as Kant’s “Critique of Judgment” suffices to show. After having
been more than a decade under the charm of the theory of selection,
Fleischmann knows its fascination well, but he now regards it as so
erroneous that no one who wishes to do serious work should concern himself
about it at all. Point by point he follows all the details of Darwin’s
work, and seeks to analyse the separate views and theories which go to
make up Darwinism as a whole. Darwin’s main example of the evolution of
the modern races of pigeons from one ancestral form, _Columba livia_, is,
according to Fleischmann, not only unproved but unprovable.(40) For this
itself is not a unified type. The process of “unconscious selection” by
man is obscure, and it is not demonstrable, especially in regard to
pigeon-breeding. It is a hazy idea which cannot be transferred to the
realm of nature. The Malthusian assumption of the necessity of the
struggle for existence is erroneous. Malthus was wrong in his law of
population as applied to human life, and Darwin was still more mistaken
when he transferred it to the organic world in general. It was mere
theory. Statistics should have been collected, and observations instead of
theories should have been sought for. The alleged superabundance of
organisms is not a fact. The marvellously intertwined conditions in the
economy of nature make the proportion of supply and demand relatively
constant. And even when there is actual struggle for existence, advantages
of situation,(41) which are quite indifferent as far as selection is
concerned, are much more decisive than any variational differences. The
theory does not explain the first origin of new characters, which can only
become advantageous when they have attained to a certain degree of
development. As to the illustrations of the influence of selection given
by Darwin, from the much discussed fictitious cases, in which the fleet
stags select the lithe wolf, to the marvellous mutual adaptations of
insects and flowers, Fleischmann objects that there is not even
theoretical justification for any one of them. The spade-like foot of the
mole is not “more useful” than the form of foot which probably preceded it
(_cf._ Goette), it is merely “different.” For when the mole took to
burrowing in the earth and adapting itself to that mode of life, it _ipso
facto_ forfeited all the advantages of living above ground. The postulated
myriads of less well-adapted forms of life are no more to be found to-day
than they are in the fauna and flora of palæontological times. The famous
giraffe story has already been disposed of by Mivart’s objections. As to
the whales, it is objected that the earliest stages of their whalebone and
their exaggerated nakedness can have been of no use, and a series of other
alleged selective effects of “utility” are critically analysed. The
refutation of the most brilliant chapter in the Darwinian theory, that on
protective coloration and mimicry, is very insufficient. A long concluding
chapter sums up the fundamental defects of the Darwinian theory.

For the most part, Fleischmann simply brings forward objections which have
been urged against the theory of selection from the first, either by
naturalists or from other quarters. The chief and the most fatal of these
which are still current are the following: The theory of selection does
not explain the actually existing discontinuity of species. The real
characteristics which distinguish species from species are in innumerable
cases quite indifferent from the point of view of “utility” (Nägeli,
Bateson). “Selection preserves the good and weeds out the bad.” But where
does the good come from? (De Vries). The first beginnings of what may
later be useful are almost always useless. The theory of selection might
perhaps explain the useful qualities, but not the superfluous, useless, or
directly injurious characters which actually exist. Confirmation of the
theory of descent may be found in the palæontological record, but it
affords none of the theory of selection. Natural selection is continually
being neutralised by subsequent inter-crossing and reversion. Natural
selection may indeed prevent degeneration within the limits of the species
by weeding out what is weak and bad, but it is powerless beyond these
limits, and so forth.(42)

These ever-repeated and ever-increasing objections are purely critical. As
this is true of Fleischmann’s whole book, it is therefore unsatisfactory.
It leaves everything in the mist, and puts nothing in place of what it
attempts to demolish. But attempts are being made in other quarters,
especially among the Lamarckians, to build up an opposition theory.

Lamarckism and Neo-Lamarckism.

The “Lamarckian” view as opposed to the Darwinian continues to hold its
own, and indeed is more ardently supported than ever. On this view,
evolution has been accomplished not by a laborious selection of the best
which chanced to present itself—a selection in relation to which organisms
remained passive, but rather through the exertions of the organisms
themselves. It has been especially through the use and exercise of the
various organs in response to the requirements of life, through the
increased exercise of physical and mental functions, that the organism has
adapted itself more diversely and more fully to the conditions of its
life. What one generation acquired in differentiation of structure, in
capacities and habits, through its own exertions, it handed on to the
next. By cumulative inheritance there ultimately arose the fixed specific
characters, and the diversity and progressive gradations of organisms have
gone hand in hand with an ever increasing activity. And as with the
physical so it has been with the mental. Through continual use and
exercise of the functions their capacity has been increased and modified.
Through the frequent repetition of voluntary actions necessary to life the
habitual use of them has come about. Habits that have become fixed are
correlated with habitual psychical predispositions. These, gradually
handed on by inheritance to the descendants, have resulted in the
marvellous instincts of animals. Instinct is inherited habit that has
become fixed. Corresponding to this there is on the other hand the
recognition—in theory at least—that the disuse of an organ, the
non-exercising of a function leads to degeneration of structure and so
co-operates in bringing about a gradual but persistent modification of the
features and constitution of organisms.

These views, which have grown out of Lamarck’s fundamental ideas
(“Philosophie zoologique,” 1809) are now usually associated with the
theory advanced chiefly by Etienne Geoffrey St. Hilaire (“Philosophie
zoologique,” 1830), the opponent of Cuvier, and the ally of Goethe, of the
direct influence of the _monde ambiant_. The “surrounding world,” the
influences of climate, of locality, of the weather, of nutrition, of
temperature, of the salinity of the water, of the moisture in the air, and
all other conditions of existence, influence the living organism. And they
do so not indirectly, as is implied in the process of selection, simply
playing the part of a sieve, and not themselves moulding and transforming,
but _directly_ by necessitating the production of new developments in the
living substance, new chemical and physiological activities, new groupings
and changes of form, and new organs.

Darwin himself did not regard these two theories as opposed to the theory
of selection, but utilised them as subsidiary interpretations. It is
obvious, however, that at bottom they conceal an essentially different
fundamental idea, which, if followed out to its logical consequences,
reduces the “struggle for existence” to at most a wholly indifferent
accessory circumstance. Weismann felt this, and hence his entirely
consistent endeavours to show by great examples, such as the origin of
flowers, the mutual adaptations of flowers and insects, the phenomena of
mimicry, and many other cases, that neither the Lamarckian nor any other
factor in evolution, except only natural, passive selection, suffices as
an interpretation. From the Darwinian standpoint he is absolutely right,
and must needs speak of the “omnipotence of natural selection,” for it
must either be omnipotent, or it must give place to the other two factors,
and retain only the significance we attributed to it in another connection
(p. 157), which amounts to saying none at all. It is obvious enough why
the discussion as to these factors should centre round the question of the
“inheritance of acquired characters,” “acquired” either through the use or
disuse of organs, the exercise or non-exercise of functions, or through
the stimuli of the external world.

The neo-Lamarckian conflict with Darwinism has become more and more acute
in recent times, and the neo-Lamarckians have sometimes passed from
contrasting rival interpretations to excluding the Darwinian factor
altogether. As the particular champion of the neo-Lamarckian view, we must
name Th. Eimer, the recently deceased Tübingen zoologist. His chief work
is in three volumes, entitled “Die Entstehung der Arten auf Grund von
Vererbung erworbener Eigenschaften, nach Gesetzen organischen
Wachsens.”(43) It is a polemic against Weismannism in all details, even to
the theory of “germinal selection.” Eimer follows in the footsteps of St.
Hilaire, and shows what a relatively plastic and sensitive creature the
organism is to the surrounding world, the conditions of nutrition and
other such influences. There is in this connection a particularly
instructive chapter on the physiological and other variations brought
about by external influences which act as “stimuli of the nervous system.”
The whole theory of Lamarck and St. Hilaire transcends—notwithstanding the
protests of Eimer to the contrary—the categories of the mechanical theory
of life, and this chapter does so in particular. The array of facts here
marshalled as to the spontaneous self-adaptation of organisms to their
environment—in relation to colour mainly—forms the most thoroughgoing
refutation of Darwinism that it is possible to imagine. It is shown, too,
by a wealth of examples from osteology, how use (and the necessities of
the case—a consideration which again goes beyond the bounds of mere
Lamarckism) may modify, increase or diminish vertebræ, ribs, skull and
limbs, in short, the whole skeleton.

Kassowitz is equally keen and convinced in his opposition to natural
selection, and in his comprehensive “Allgemeine Biologic”(44) he attacks
orthodox Darwinism from the neo-Lamarckian standpoint. The whole of the
first volume is almost chapter for chapter a critical analysis, and the
polemical element rather outweighs his positive personal contribution. He
criticises very severely all attempts to carry the Darwinian principle of
explaining adaptations into internal and minute details, arguing against
Roux’s “Struggle of Parts” and Weismann’s “Germinal Selection.” And though
he himself maintains very decidedly that the ultimate aim of biology is to
find a mechanical solution of the problem of life, he criticises the
modern hypotheses in this direction without prejudice, and declares them
unsuccessful and insufficient, inclining himself towards the
“neo-vitalistic reaction” in its most recent expression. Along with Eimer
and Kassowitz, we may name W. Haacke, especially in relation to his views
on the acquisition and transmission of functional modifications and his
thoroughgoing denial of Darwinism proper. But his work must be dealt with
later in a different connection.(45)

These neo-Lamarckian views give us a picture of the evolution of the world
that is much more convincing than the strictly Darwinian one. Instead of
passive and essentially unintelligent “adaptation” through the sieve of
selection, we have here direct self-adaptation of organisms to the
conditions of their existence, through their own continual restless
activity and exertion, an ascent of their own accord to ever greater
heights and perfections. A theory of this kind might easily form part of a
religious conception of the world. We might think of the world with
primitive tendencies and capacities, in which the potentialities of its
evolution were implied, and so ordered that it had to struggle by its own
exertions to achieve the full realisation of its possibilities, to attain
to ever higher—up to the highest—forms of Being. The process of nature
would thus be the direct anticipation of what occurs in the history of man
and of mind. And the task set to the freedom of individual men, and to
mankind as a whole, namely, to work out their own nature through their own
labour and exertion, and to ascend to perfection—this deepest meaning of
all individual and collective existence—would have its exact prelude and
preparation in the general nature and evolution of all living creatures.
The transition from these theories of nature to a teleological outlook
from the highest and most human point of view is so obvious as to be
almost unavoidable. And although a natural science which keeps to its own
business and within its own boundaries has certainly no right to make this
transition for itself, it has still less right to prevent its being made
outside of its limits.

Theory of Definite Variation.

But the question now arises, whether both Darwinism and Lamarckism must
not be replaced, or at least reduced to the level of accessory theories
and factors, by another theory of evolution which was in the field before
Darwin, and which since his time has been advanced anew, especially by
Nägeli, and has now many adherents who support it in whole or in part.
This view affects the very foundations of the Darwinian doctrine. The
theory of “indefinite” variation, bringing about easy transitions and
affecting every part of the organism separately, which is the necessary
correlate of the “struggle for existence,” is rejected altogether.
Evolution takes place only along a few definite lines, predetermined
through the internal organisation and the laws of growth. It is wholly
indifferent to “utility,” and brings forth only what it must according to
its own inner laws, not seldom even the monstrous. According to this view,
new species arise, not in easy transition, but with a visible leap, by a
considerable and far-reaching displacement of the organic equilibrium.
What Darwin calls the correlation of parts, and in no way denies, is here
maintained in strong opposition to his doctrine of the isolated variation
of individual parts; every member or character of the organism depends
upon others, and variation of one affects many, and in some way all of the

This theory is for the most part intended by its champions to be purely
naturalistic. But every one of its points yields support to teleological
considerations, most obviously so the concrete instances of correlation.
If any one were to attempt to make a theory of evolution from a decidedly
teleological standpoint, he would probably construct one very similar to
the one we are now considering.

It is noteworthy that it has generally been the botanists who have
especially supported these views of saltatory evolution in a definite
direction and according to internal law, who have therefore tended to
react most strongly from Darwinism. We find examples in Nägeli’s large and
comprehensive work, “Mechanisch-physikalische Theorie der
Abstammungslehre”; and, before him, in Wigand’s “Darwinismus und die
Naturforschung Newton’s und Cuvier’s”; in von Kölliker’s “Heterogenesis”;
in von Baer’s “Endeavour after an End”; in the chapter added by the
translator, Bronn, to the first German edition of the “Origin of Species,”
where he urges weighty objections against the theory of selection, and
refers to the “innate impulse to development, persistently varying in a
definite direction”; in Askenasy’s oft-quoted “Beiträge zur Kritik der
Darwinschen Lehre,” also referring to “variation in a definite direction,”
for instance, in flowers; in Delpino’s views, and in the works of many
other older writers. But we must leave all these out of account here,
since we are concerned only with the present state of the question.

De Vries’s Mutation-theory.

The work that has probably excited most interest in this connection is De
Vries’ “Die Mutationstheorie: Versuche und Beobachtungen über die
Entstehung von Arten im Pflanzenleben.”(46) In a short preliminary paper
he had previously given some account of his leading experiments on a
species of evening primrose (_Œnothera lamarckiana_), and the outlines of
his theory. In the work itself he extends this, adding much concrete
material, and comparing his views in detail with other theories. Darwin,
he says, had already distinguished between variability and mutability; the
former manifesting itself in gradual and isolated changes, the latter in
saltatory changes on a larger scale. The mistake made by Wallace and by
the later Darwinians has been that they regarded this latter form (“single
variation”) as unimportant and not affecting evolution, and the former as
the real method of evolutionary process. That fluctuating individual
variations do occur De Vries admits, but only within narrow limits, never
overstepping the type of the species. Here De Vries utilises the recent
statistical investigations into the phenomena of individual variation and
their laws, as formulated chiefly by Quetelet and Bateson, which were
unknown to Darwin and the earlier Darwinians. The actual transition from
“species to species” is made suddenly, by mutation, not through variation.
And the state of equilibrium thus reached is such a relatively stable one
that individual variations can only take place within its limits, but can
in no way disturb it.

De Vries marshals a series of facts which present insurmountable
difficulties to the Darwinian theory, but afford corroboration of the
Mutation theory. In particular, he brings forward, from his years of
experiment and horticultural observation, comprehensive evidence of the
mutational origin of new species from old ones by leaps, and this not in
long-past geological times, but in the course of a human life and before
our very eyes. The main importance of the book lies in the record of these
experiments and observations, rather than in the theory as such, for the
way had been paved for it by other workers.

In contrast to Darwinism, De Vries states the case for “Halmatogenesis”
(saltatory evolution) and “Heterogenesis” (the production of forms unlike
the parents), taking his examples from the plant world, but his attitude
to Darwinism is conciliatory throughout. Eimer, on the other hand, is
sharply antagonistic, especially to Weismann; he takes his proofs from the
animal kingdom, and in the second volume of his large work already
mentioned, which deals with the “orthogenesis of butterflies,” he attempts
to set against the Darwinism “chance theory,” a proof of “definitely
directed evolution,” and therefore of the “insufficiency of natural
selection in the formation of species.”

Eimer’s Orthogenesis.

Organisation is due to internal causes. Structural characters crystallise
out, as it were. “Orthogenesis,” or the definitely determined tendency of
evolution to advance in a few directions, is a law for the whole of the
animate world. In active response to the stimuli and influences of the
environment the organism expresses itself in “organic growth” without any
relation to utility. Butterflies in particular, and especially their
markings and coloration, are taken as illustrations. In the Darwinian
theory of “mimicry” these played a brilliant part. The great resemblance
to leaves, to dried twigs, or to well-protected species which are secure
from enemies, was regarded as the most convincing proof of the operation
of natural selection. But Eimer shows that markings, striping, spots, the
development of pattern, and the alleged or real resemblances to leaves,
are really subject to definite laws of growth, in obedience to which they
gradually appear, developing according to their own internal laws, varying
and progressing altogether by internal necessity, and without any
reference to advantage or disadvantage, In association with this
orthogenesis, Eimer recognises halmatogenesis, correlation and
“genepistasis” (coming to a standstill at a fixed and definite stage), and
these seem to him to make the Darwinian theory utterly impossible. The
text and the illustrations of the book show how, in the sequence of
evolution (according to Eimer’s laws of transformation), the groupings of
stripes, bands, and eye-spots must have appeared on the butterfly’s wing,
how convex or concave curvings of the contour must have come about at
certain points, so that the form of a “leaf” and the lines of its venation
resulted, how the eye-spots must have been moulded and shunted, so that
they produced the effect of rust or other spots on withered leaves.
Particular interest attaches to the detailed arguments against the idea
that the butterfly must receive some advantage from its “mimicry.” Even
the Darwinians have to admit that in a whole series of cases the advantage
is not obvious. They talk with some embarrassment of “pseudomimicry.” Some
butterflies that are supposed to be protected have the protective markings
on the underside, so that these are actually hidden when the insects are
flying from pursuing birds. Many of the leaf-like butterflies are not
wood-butterflies at all, but meadow species,(47) and so Eimer’s arguments

A specially energetic fellow-worker on Eimer’s line is W. Haacke, a
zoologist of Jena, author of “Gestaltung und Vererbung,” and “Die
Schöpfung des Menschen und seiner Ideale.”(48) In the first of these works
Haacke combats, energetically and with much detail, Weismann’s
“preformation theory,” and defends “epigenesis,” for which he endeavours
to construct graphic diagrams, his aim being to make a foundation for the
inheritance of acquired characters, definitely directed evolution,
saltatory, symmetrical, and correlated variation.

The principles of the new school are very widespread to-day, but we cannot
here follow their development in the works of individual investigators,
such as Reinke, R. Hertwig, O. Hertwig, Wiesner, Hamann, Dreyer, Wolff,
Goette, Kassowitz, v. Wettstein, Korschinsky, and others.(49)

The Spontaneous Activity of the Organism.

What is particularly luminous in all the theories that express the most
recent anti-Darwinian tendency is that they tend to bring into prominence
the mysterious powers of living organisms, by means of which, instead of
passively waiting for natural selection and the continual accumulation of
unceasing variations, they are able spontaneously and of themselves to
bring forth what is necessary for self-maintenance, often what is new and
different, of course not unlimitedly, but with considerable freedom and
often with a surprising range of possibilities. It is, perhaps, partly the
fault of the one-sidedness of strict Darwinism that this consideration has
been so slowly brought into prominence and subjected to investigation and
experiment. It is bound up with the capacity that all forms of life have
of reacting spontaneously to “stimuli” and, to a certain extent, of
helping themselves if the conditions of existence be unfavourable. They
are able, for instance, to produce protective adaptations against cold or
heat, to “regenerate” lost parts, often to replace entire organs that have
been lost, and, under certain circumstances, to produce new organs
altogether. If all this be true, it seems almost like caprice to follow
only the roundabout theory of the struggle for existence, and not to take
account of these spontaneous capacities of the living organism directly
and before all other factors in the attempt to explain evolution. There is
no end to the illustrations that are being adduced, that must force
investigation to pass from merely superficial considerations of the
struggle for existence type to the deeper and more real problems

An effectively modified and adapted type of Alpine flora has not been
evolved by a laborious process of selection lasting for many thousand
years; the organism may quickly and immediately produce the new characters
by its own reaction. Crustaceans gradually transferred from a salt-water
to a fresh-water habitat, or conversely, produce in a few generations the
type of a new “species” with correlated variations (Schmankewitsch). Birds
weaned by careful experiment from a diet of seeds to one of flesh, or
conversely, produce changes of effective correlation and adaptation in the
characters of their alimentary system. Plants that have been deprived of
their normal organs for absorbing water and prevented from growing new
ones produce entirely new and effective “hydatodes.”(50)

It is instructive to notice that Darwinism seems likely to be robbed of
its stock illustration, namely, “protective coloration.” By its own
internal power of reaction, and sometimes within one generation, and even
in the lifetime of an individual, an organism may assume the colour of the
substratum beneath it (soles, grasshoppers), of its surroundings (Eimer’s
tree frogs), the colour and spottiness of the granite rock on which it
hangs, the colour of the leaves and twigs among which it lives (Poulton’s
butterfly pupæ), and even that of the brightly coloured sheets of paper
amidst which it is kept imprisoned. Certain spiders assume a white, pink,
or greenish “protective coloration” corresponding to the tinted blossom of
the plants which they frequent, and so on.(51) Eimer alleged that direct
psychical factors co-operated in bringing about these changes. In any
case, all this carries us far beyond the domain of mere naturalistic
factors into the mystery of life itself. Even what is called the
“influence of the external world,” and the “active acquirement of new
characters,” have their basis and the reason of their possibility in this
domain. And the whole domain is saturated through and through with

A recognition of the impressive secret of the organism led Gustav Wolff to
become a very pronounced critic of Darwinism, especially in the form of
Weismannism. As far back as 1896, in a lecture “On the present position of
Darwinism,” in which he dealt only with Weismann, he criticised and
analysed that author’s last attempt to uphold Darwinism by the
construction of his theory of “germinal selection.” He concluded with the

“That a spirit of earnestness would once more enter into biological
investigation, which would no longer attempt to find in nature just what
it wanted to find, but would be ready to follow truth at all costs, and to
approach the riddle of life with an open mind.”

His “Beiträge zur Kritik der Darwinischen Lehre,” which appeared first as
papers in the “Biologisches Centralblatt,” did not see the light in book
form until 1898. The doctrine of selection was regarded as so unassailable
that no publisher would take the risk of the book. Its appearance is a
sure indication of the general modification of opinions that had taken
place in the interval. The first and second essays are merely critical
objections to the theory of selection, very similar to those frequently
urged before, but more precisely stated.(52) The third is intended to show
that there is in the forms of life themselves, as a faculty of adaptation
peculiar to them, a primary purposiveness, which is unquestionably active
throughout the lifetime and development of every individual, but which is
also the deepest cause of “phylogenesis,” or the formation of a race. This
doctrine makes both the Darwinian and Lamarckian theories merely
secondary. For the phenomena which suggest the Lamarckian interpretation
presuppose this most essential factor—the primary adaptiveness. Wolff
concludes with a very striking instance—discovered by himself—of this
primary adaptiveness of the organism—the regeneration of the lens in the
newt’s eye.

More comprehensively, but from a precisely similar standpoint, Driesch has
followed up the discussion of this problem.(53) He is, of all modern
investigators, perhaps the one who has most persistently and thoroughly
worked out the problem of causal and teleological interpretation, and he
has also thrown much light on the scientific and epistemological aspects
of the problem. That he could, in a recent volume of the “Biologisches
Zentralblatt,” write a respectful and sympathetic exposition of the
Hegelian nature-philosophy—as regards its aims, though not its methods—is
as remarkable a symptom as we can instance of the modern trend of views
and opinions.(54)

Contrast Between Darwinian and Post-Darwinian Views.

The new views that have thus arisen have been definitely summarised and
clearly contrasted with Darwinism by the botanist Korschinsky. He died
before completing his general work, “Heterogenesis und Evolution,” but he
has elsewhere(55) given an excellent summary of his results, which we
append in abstract.

DARWIN. (1) Everything organic is capable of variation. Variations arise
in part from internal, in part from external causes. They are slight,
inconspicuous, individual differences.

KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (1) Everything organic is capable of
variation. This capability is a fundamental, inherent character of living
forms in general, and is independent of external conditions. It is usually
kept latent by “heredity,” but occasionally breaks forth in sudden

DARWIN. (2) The struggle for existence. This combines, increases, fixes
useful variations, and eliminates the useless. All the characters and
peculiarities of a finished species are the results of long-continued
selection; they must therefore be adapted to the external conditions.

KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (2) Saltatory variations.—These are, under
favourable circumstances, the starting-point of new and constant races.
The characters may sometimes be useful, sometimes quite indifferent,
neither advantageous nor disadvantageous. Sometimes they are not in
harmony with external circumstances.

DARWIN. (3) The species is subject to constant variation. It is
continually subject to selection and augmentation of its characters. Hence
again the origin of new species.

KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (3) All fully developed species persist, but
through heterogenesis a splitting up into new forms may take place, and
this is accompanied by a disturbance of the vital equilibrium. The new
state is at first insecure and fluctuating, and only gradually becomes
stable. Thus new forms and races arise with gradual consolidation of their

DARWIN. (4) The sharper and more acute the effect of the environment, the
keener is the struggle for existence, and the more rapidly and certainly
do new forms arise.

KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (4) Only in specially favourable conditions,
only when the struggle for existence is weak, or when there is none, can
new forms arise and become fixed. When the conditions are severe no new
forms arise, or if they do they are speedily eliminated.

DARWIN. (5) The chief condition of evolution is therefore the struggle for
existence and the selection which this involves.

KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (5) The struggle for existence simply
decimates the overwhelming abundance of possible forms. Where it occurs it
prevents the establishment of new variations, and in reality stands in the
way of new developments. It is rather an unfavourable than an advantageous

DARWIN. (6) If there were no struggle for existence there would be no
adaptation, no perfecting.

KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (6) Were there no struggle for existence,
there would be no destruction of new forms, or of forms in process of
arising. The world of organisms would then be a colossal genealogical tree
of enormous luxuriance, and with an incalculable wealth of forms.

DARWIN. (7) Progress in nature, the “perfecting” of organisms, is only an
increasingly complex and ever more perfect adaptation to the external
circumstances. It is attained by purely mechanical methods, by an
accumulation of the variations most useful at the time.

KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (7) The adaptation which the struggle for
existence brings about has nothing to do with perfecting, for the
organisms which are physiologically and morphologically higher are by no
means always better adapted to external circumstances than those lower in
the scale. Evolution cannot be explained mechanically. The origin of
higher forms from lower is only possible if there is a tendency to
progress innate in the organism itself. This tendency is nearly related to
or identical with the tendency to variation. It compels the organism to
perfect itself as far as external circumstances will permit.

All this implies an admission of evolution and of descent, but a setting
aside of Darwinism proper as an unsuccessful hypothesis, and a positive
recognition of an endeavour after an aim, internal causes, and teleology
in nature, as against fortuitous and superficial factors. This opens up a
vista into the background of things, and thereby yields to the religious
conception all that a study of nature can yield—namely, an acknowledgment
of the possibility and legitimacy of interpreting the world in a religious
sense, and assistance in so doing.

The most important point has already been emphasised. Even if the theory
of the struggle for existence were correct, it would be possible to
subject the world as a whole to a teleological interpretation. But these
anti-Darwinian theories now emerging, though they do not directly induce
teleological interpretation, suggest it much more strongly than orthodox
Darwinism does. A world which in its evolution is not exposed, for good or
ill, to the action of chance factors—playing with it and forcing it hither
and thither—but which, exposed indeed to the most diverse conditions of
existence and their influences, and harmonising with them, nevertheless
carries implicitly and infallibly within itself the laws of its own
expression, and especially the necessity to develop upwards into higher
and higher forms, is expressly suited for teleological consideration, and
we can understand how it is that the old physico-teleological evidences of
the existence of God are beginning to hold up their heads again. They are
wrong when they try to demonstrate God, but quite right when they simply
seek to show that nature does not contradict—in fact that it allows room
and validity to—belief in the Highest Wisdom as the cause and guide of all
things natural.

As far as the question of the right to interpret nature teleologically is
concerned, it would be entirely indifferent whether what Korschinsky calls
“the tendency to progress,” and the system of laws in obedience to which
evolution brings forth its forms, can be interpreted “mechanically” or
not; that is to say, whether or not evolution depends on conditions and
potentialities of living matter, which can be demonstrated and made
mechanically commensurable or not. It may be that they can neither be
demonstrated nor made mechanically commensurable, but lie in the
impenetrable mystery inherent in all life. Whether this mystery really
exists, and whether religion has any particular interest in it if it does,
must be considered in the following chapter.


What is life—not in the spiritual and transcendental sense, but in its
physical and physiological aspects? What is this mysterious complex of
processes and phenomena, common to everything animate, from the seaweed to
the rose, and from the human body to the bacterium, this ability to “move”
of itself, to change and yet to remain like itself, to take up dead
substances into itself, to assimilate and to excrete, to initiate and
sustain, in respiration, in nutrition, in external and internal movements,
the most complex chemical and physical processes, to develop and build up
through a long series of stages a complete whole from the primitive
beginnings in the germ, to grow, to become mature, and gradually to break
up again, and with all this to repeat in itself the type of its parent,
and to bring forth others like itself, thus perpetuating its own species,
to react effectively to stimuli, to produce protective devices against
injury, and to regenerate lost parts? All this is done by living
organisms, all this is the expression in them of “Life.” What is it?
Whence comes it? And how can it be explained?

The problem of the nature of life, of the principle of vitality, is almost
as old as philosophy itself, and from the earliest times in which men
began to ponder over the problem, the same antitheses have been apparent
which we find to-day. Disguised under various catchwords and with the
greatest diversities of expression, the antitheses remain essentially the
same through the centuries, competing with one another, often mingling
curiously, so that from time to time one or other almost disappears, but
always crops up again, so that it seems as if the conflict would be a
never-ending one—the antitheses between the mechanical and the
“vitalistic” view of life. On the one side there is the conviction that
the processes of life may be interpreted in terms of natural processes of
a simple and obvious kind, indeed directly in terms of those which are
most general and most intelligible—namely, the simplest movements of the
smallest particles of matter, which are governed by the same laws as
movement in general. And associated with this is the attempt to take away
any special halo from around the processes of life, to admit even here no
other processes but the mechanical ones, and to explain everything as the
effect of material causes. On the opposite side is the conviction that
vital phenomena occupy a special and peculiar sphere in the world of
natural phenomena, a higher platform; that they cannot be explained by
merely physical or chemical or mechanical factors, and that, if
“explaining” means reducing to terms of such factors, they do in truth
include something inexplicable. These opposing conceptions of the living
and the organic have been contrasted with one another, in most precise
form and exact expression, by Kant in certain chapters of the Kritik der
Urteilskraft, which must be regarded as a classic for our subject.(56) But
as far as their general tendency is concerned, they were already
represented in the nature-philosophies of Democritus on the one hand, and
of Aristotle on the other.

All the essential constituents of the modern mechanical theories are
really to be found in Democritus, the causal interpretation, the denial of
any operative purposes or formative principles, the admission and
assertion of quantitative explanations alone, the denial of qualities, the
reduction of all cosmic developments to the “mechanics of the atom” (even
to attractions and repulsions, thus setting aside the “energies”), the
inevitable necessity of these mechanical sequences, indeed at bottom even
the conviction of the “constancy of the sum of matter and energy.” (For,
as he says, “nothing comes out of nothing.”) And although he makes the
“soul” the principle of the phenomena of life, that is in no way
contradictory to his general mechanical theory, but is quite congruent
with it. For the “soul” is to him only an aggregation of thinner,
smoother, and rounder atoms, which as such are more mobile, and can, as it
were, quarter themselves in the body, but nevertheless stand in a purely
mechanical relation to it.

Aristotle, who was well aware of the diametrical opposition, represents,
as compared with Democritus, the Socratic-Platonic teleological
interpretation of nature, and in regard to the question of living
organisms his point of view may quite well be designated by the modern
name of “vitalism.” Especially in his theory of the vegetable soul, the
essence of vitalism is already contained. It is the λόγος ἐνυλος (logos
enhylos), the idea immanent in the matter, the conceptual essence of the
organism, or its ideal whole, which is inherent in it from its beginnings
in the germ, and determines, like a directing law, all its vegetative
processes, and so raises it from a state of “possibility” to one of
“reality.” All that we meet with later as “nisus formativus,” as
“life-force” (vis vitalis), as “endeavour after an end” (Zielstrebigkeit),
is included in the scope of Aristotelian thought. And he has the advantage
over many of his successors of being very much clearer.(57)

The present state of the problem of life may be regarded as due to a
reaction of biological investigation and opinion from the “vitalistic”
theories which prevailed in the first half of last century, and which were
in turn at once the root and the fruit of the German Nature-philosophy of
that time.

Lotze in his oft-quoted article, “Leben, Lebenskraft” (Life, Vital Force),
in Wagner’s “Hand-Wörterbuch der Physiologie,” 1842, gave the signal for
this reaction. The change, however, did not take place suddenly. The most
important investigators in their special domain, the physiologist Johannes
Müller, the chemist Julius Liebig, remained faithful to a modified
vitalistic standpoint. But in the following generation the revolution was
complete and energetic. With Du Bois-Reymond, Virchow, Haeckel, the
anti-vitalistic trend became more definite and more widespread. It had a
powerful ally in the Darwinian theory, which had been promulgated
meanwhile, and at the same time in the increasingly materialistic tendency
of thought, which afforded support to the mechanical system and also
sought foundations in it.

The naturalistic, “mechanical” interpretation of life was so much in the
tenor of Darwin’s doctrine that it would have arisen out of it if it had
not existed before. It is so generally regarded as a self-evident and
necessary corollary of the strictly Darwinian doctrine, that it is often
included with it under the name of Darwinism, although Darwin personally
did not devote any attention to the problem of the mechanical
interpretation of life. Any estimate of the value of one must be
associated with an estimate of the other also.

It goes without saying that the theory of life is dependent upon, and in a
large measure consists of physico-chemical interpretations,
investigations, and methods. For ever since the attention of investigators
was directed to the problems of growth, of nutrition, of development and
so on, and particularly as knowledge has passed from primitive and
unmethodical forms to real science, it has been taken as a matter of
course that chemical and physical processes play a large part in life, and
indeed that everything demonstrable, visible, or analysable, does come
about “naturally,” as it is said. And from the vitalistic standpoint it
has to be asked whether detailed biological investigation and analysis can
ever accomplish more than the observation and tracing out of these
chemical and physical processes. Anything beyond this will probably be
only the defining and formulating of the limits of its own proper sphere
of inquiry, and a recognition, though no knowledge, of what lies beyond
and of the co-operative factors. The difference between vitalism and the
mechanical theory of life is not, that the one regards the processes in
the organism as opposed to those in the inorganic world while the other
identifies them, but that vitalism regards life as a combination of
chemical and physical processes, with the co-operation and under the
regulation of other principles, while the mechanical theory leaves these
other principles out.

Notwithstanding the many noteworthy reactions, we are bound to regard the
present state of the theory of life as on the whole mechanical. The
majority of experts—not to speak of the popular materialists, and
especially those who, sailing under the flag of materialistic
interpretation, have their ships full of vitalistic contraband—regard as
the ideal of their science an ultimate analysis of the phenomena of life
into mechanical processes, into “mechanics of the atom.” They believe in
this ideal, and without concealing that it is still very far off, do not
doubt its ultimate attainability, and regard vitalistic assumptions as
obstacles to the progress of investigation. Moreover, this aspect of the
problem seems likely enough to be permanent with the majority, or, at any
rate, with many naturalists, though it is obviously one-sided. For it has
always been the task of this line of investigation to extend the sphere
within which physical and chemical laws can be validly applied in
interpreting vital processes, and the results reached along this line will
always be so numerous and important that even on psychological grounds the
mechanical point of view has the best chance for the future. Furthermore,
the maxim that all the phenomena of nature must be explained by means of
the simplest factors and according to the smallest possible number of
laws, is usually regarded as one of the most legitimate maxims of science
in general, so that the resolute pertinacity with which many investigators
maintain the entire sufficiency of the mechanical interpretation, far from
being condemned as materialistic fanaticism, must be respected as the
expression of scientific conscience. Even when confidence in the one-sided
mechanical interpretation of vital processes sometimes fails in face of
the great and striking riddles of life, it is to be expected that it will
revive again with each new success, great or small.(58)

The mechanical conception of life which now prevails is made up of the
following characteristics and component elements. These also indicate the
lines along which the arguments are worked out—lines which glimmered
faintly through the mechanical theories of ancient times, but which have
now been definitely formulated and supported by evidence.

The Conservation of Matter and Energy.

1. The whole mechanical theory is based upon a law which is not strictly
biological but belongs to science in general—the law of the conservation
of matter and energy. This was first recognised by Kant as a general
rational concept in his “Critique” and in the “Grundlegung der Metaphysik
der Naturwissenschaft,” and was transferred by Robert Mayer and
Helmholtz(59) to the domain of natural science. Just as no particle of
matter can come from nothing or become nothing, so no quantum of energy
can come from nothing or become nothing. It must come from somewhere and
must remain somewhere. The form of energy is continually changing, but the
sum of energy in the universe remains invariable and constant. Therefore,
it seems to follow, there can be no specific vital phenomena. The energies
concerned in the up-building, growth, and decay of the organism, and the
sum of the functions performed by it, must be the exact resultant and
equivalent of the potential energies stored in its material substance and
the co-operative energies of its environment. The particular course of
transformations they follow must have its sufficient reason in the
configuration of the parts of the organism, in its relations to the
environment, and the like. An intervention of “vitalistic” principles,
directions and so forth, would, we are told, involve a sudden obtrusion
and disappearance again of energy-effects which had no efficient cause in
the previous phenomena. From any point of view it would be a miracle, and
in particular it would be doing violence to the law of the constancy of
the sum of energy.

Apart from the inherent general “instinct”—_sit venia verbo_, for no more
definite word is available—which is the quiet Socius, the concealed but
powerful spring of the mechanistic convictions, as of most others, this
law of the conservation of energy is probably the really central argument,
and it meets us again more or less disguised in what follows.

The Organic and the Inorganic.

2. What is on _à priori_ grounds demanded as a necessity, or set aside as
impossible, on the strength of the axiom of the conservation of energy,
must be proved _à posteriori_ by investigation. It must be shown in detail
that the difference between the organic and the inorganic is only
apparent. And it is here that the mechanical view of life celebrates its
greatest triumph.

For a long time it seemed as though there were an absolute difference
between “inorganic” and “organic” chemistry, between the chemical
processes and products found in free nature, and those within the “living”
body. The same elements were indeed found in both, but it seemed as if
they were subject in the living body to other and higher laws than those
observed in inanimate nature. Out of these elements the organism builds
up, by unexplained processes, peculiar chemical individualities, highly
organised and complex combinations which are never attained in inorganic
nature. This seems to afford indubitable evidence of a vital force with
mysterious super-chemical capacities.

But modern chemical science has succeeded in doing away with this absolute
difference between the two departments of chemistry, for it has achieved,
in retorts, in the laboratory, and with “natural” chemical means, what had
hitherto only been accomplished by “organic” chemistry. Since Wöhler’s
discovery that urea could be built up by artificial combination, more and
more of the carbon-compounds which were previously regarded as
specialities of the vital force have been produced by artificial
syntheses. The highest synthesis, that of proteids, has not yet been
discovered, but perhaps that, too, may yet be achieved.

And further: intensive observation through the microscope and in the
laboratory increases the knowledge of processes which can be analysed into
simple chemical processes, both in the plant and the animal body. These
are astonishing in their diversity and complexity, but nevertheless they
fulfil themselves according to known chemical laws, and they can be
imitated apart from the living substance. The “breaking up” of the
molecules of nutritive material,—that is to say, the preparation of them
as building material for the body,—does not take place magically and
automatically, but is associated with definitely demonstrable chemical
stuffs, which produce their effect even outside of the organism. The
fundamental function of living matter—“metabolism,”—that is, the constant
disruption and reconstruction of its own substance, has, it seems, been
brought at least nearer to a possible future explanation by the
recognition of a series of phenomena of a purely chemical nature, the
catalytic phenomena (the effects of ferments or “enzymes”). Ingenious
hypotheses are already being constructed, if not to explain, at least to
give a general formulation of these facts, which will serve as a framework
and guiding clue, as a “working hypothesis” for the further progress of

The most recent of these hypotheses is that set forth by Verworn in his
book “Die Biogenhypothese.”(60) He assumes, as the central vehicle of the
vital functions, a unified living substance, the “biogen,” nearly related
to the proteids which form the fundamental substance of protoplasm and of
the cell-nucleus, and in contrast to which the other substances found in
the living body are in part raw materials and reserves, and in part of a
derivative nature, or the results of disruptive metabolism. Very complex
chemically, “biogen” is able to operate upon the circulating or reserve
“nutritive” materials in a way comparable, for instance, to the action of
“nitric acid in the production of English sulphuric acid.” That is to say,
it is able to set up processes of disruption and of recombination,
apparently by its mere presence, but, in reality, by its own continual
breaking down and building up again. At the same time it has the power,
analogous to that of polymerisation in molecules, of increasing, of

The case is the same in regard to physical laws. They are identical in the
living and the non-living. And many of the processes of life have already
been analysed into a complex of simpler physical processes. The
circulation of the blood is subject to the same laws of hydrostatics as
are illustrated in all other fluids. Mechanical, static, and osmotic
processes occur in the organism and constitute its vital phenomena. The
eye is a _camera obscura_, an optical apparatus; the ear an acoustic
instrument; the skeleton an ingenious system of levers, which obey the
same laws as all other levers. E. du Bois-Reymond, in his lectures on “The
Physics of Organic Metabolism” (“Physik des organischen
Stoffwechsels”),(61) compiles a long and detailed list of the physical
factors associated and intertwined in the most diverse ways with the
fundamental phenomenon of life, namely, metabolism:—the capacities and
effects of solution, diffusion of liquids, capillarity, surface tension,
coagulation, transfusion with filtration, the capacities and effects of
gases, aero-diffusion through porous walls, the absorption of gases
through solid bodies and through fluids, and so on.

Very impressive, too, are the manifold “mechanical” interpretations of
intimate vital characteristics, such as the infinitely fine structure of
protoplasm. For protoplasm does not fill the cell as a compact mass, but
spreads itself out and builds itself up in the most delicate network or
meshwork, of which it forms the threads and walls, enclosing innumerable
vacuoles and alveoli, and Bütschli succeeded in making a surprisingly good
imitation of this “structure” by mechanical means. Drops of oil intimately
mixed with potash and placed between glass plates formed a very similar
emulsion-like or foam-like structure with a visible network and with
enclosed alveoli.(62)

Rhumbler, too, succeeded in explaining by “developmental mechanics” some
of the apparently extremely subtle processes at the beginning of embryonic
development (the invagination of the blastula to form the gastrula); by
imitating the sphere of cells which compose the blastula with elastic
steel bands he deduced the invagination mechanically from the model.(63)

Here, too, must be mentioned Verworn’s attempts to explain “the movements
of the living substance.”(64) “Kinesis,” the power to move, has since the
time of Aristotle been regarded as one of the peculiar characteristics of
life. From the gliding “amœboid” movements of the moneron, with its
mysterious power of shifting its position, spreading itself out, and
spinning out long threads (“pseudopodia”), up to the contractility of the
muscle-fibre, the same riddle reappears in many different forms. Verworn
attacks it at the lowest level, and attempts to solve it by reference to
the surface tension to which all fluid bodies are subject, and to the
partial relaxation of this, which forces the mass to give off radiating
processes or “pseudopodia.” The mechanical causes of the suspension of the
surface tension are inquired into, and striking examples of pseudopod-like
rays are found in the inorganic world, for instance, in a drop of oil.
Thus a starting-point is discovered for mechanical interpretations at a
higher level.(65)


3. A property which seems to be quite peculiar to living matter is
irritability, or the power of responding to “stimuli,” that is to say, of
reacting to some influence from without in such a manner that _the
reaction_ is not the mere equivalent of the action, but that the stimulus
is to the organism as a contingent cause or impulse setting up a new
process or a new series of processes, which seem as though they occurred
spontaneously and freely. Thus the sensitive plant _Mimosa pudica_ droops
its feathery leaves when touched. Here, too, must be classed also all the
innumerable phenomena of Heliotropism, Geotropism, Rheotropism,
Chemotropism, and other tropisms, in which the sun, or the earth, or
currents, or chemical stimuli so affect a form of life—plant, alga, or
spore—that it disposes its own movements or the arrangements of its parts
accordingly, turning towards, or away from, or in an oblique direction to
the source of stimulus, or otherwise behaving in some definite manner
which could not have been deduced or predicted from the direct effects of
the stimulating factors. The upholders of the mechanical theory have
attempted to conquer this vast and mysterious domain of facts by seeking
to do away with the appearance of spontaneity and freedom, by
demonstrating in suitable cases that these phenomena of spontaneity and
the like would be impossible were it not that the potential energies
previously stored up within the organism are liberated by the stimulus.
Thus the effect caused is not equivalent to the stimulus alone, but is
rather the resultant of the conditions given in the chemo-physical
predispositions of the organism itself, and in the architecture of its
parts, _plus_ the stimulus.

Directly associated with this property of irritability is another form of
spontaneity and freedom in living beings—the power of adapting themselves
to changed conditions of existence. Some do not show this at all, while
others show it in an astonishing degree, helping themselves out by new
contrivances, so to speak. Thus the organism may protect itself against
temperature and other influences, against injury, making damages good
again by self-repairing processes, “regenerating” lost organs, and
sometimes even building up the whole organism anew from amputated parts.
The mechanical interpretation must here proceed in the same way as in
dealing with the question of stimuli, applying to the development of form
the same explanations as are there employed. And just because this domain
does not lend itself readily to mechanical explanation, we can understand
that confidence in the sufficiency of this mode of interpretation grows
rapidly with each fresh conquest, when this or that particular process is
shown to be actually explicable on mechanical principles. Processes of
development or morphogenesis—which are among the most intricate and
difficult—are attacked in various ways. The processes of regeneration, for
instance, are compared with the similar tendencies observed in crystals,
which when they are injured have the capacity of restoring their normal
form. This capacity therefore obtains in the realm of the inorganic as
well as among organisms, and is referred to the tendency of all substances
to maintain a definite state of equilibrium, conditioned by their form,
and, if that is disturbed, to return to a similar or a new state of
equilibrium. Or, the procedure may be to reduce the processes of a
developmental or morphogenetic category to processes of stimulation in
general, and then it is believed, or even demonstrated, that
chemo-physical analogies or explanations can be found for them.

Thus, for instance, it is shown that the egg of the sea-urchin may be
“stimulated” to development, not exclusively by the fertilising sperm, but
even by a simple chemical agent, or that spermatozoids which are seeking
the ovum to be fertilised may be attracted by malic acid. These are
“reductions” of the higher phenomena of life to the terms of a lower and
simpler process of “stimulus,” that is to say, to chemotropism in the
second case and something analogous in the first. A further reduction
would be to show that the movement of the spermatozoids towards the malic
acid is not a “vitalistic” act, much less a psychically conditioned one,
(that is, conditioned by “taste,” “sensation,” and the voluntary or
instinctive impulse liberated thereby), but is a chemo-physical process,
although perhaps an exceedingly complex one. It would be another
“reduction” of this second kind, if, for instance, the well-known effect
of light on plants, which makes them turn their leaves towards it
(heliotropism), could be shown to be due to more rapid growth of the leaf
on the shaded side, which would lift up the leaf and cause it to turn, or
to an increase of turgescence on the shaded side, and if it could be shown
that the increase in either case was a simple and obvious physical
process, the necessary consequence of the decreased amount of light.

It is obvious, and it is also thoroughly justifiable, that all attempts
along these lines of interpretation should be undertaken in the first
place in connection with the simplest and lowest forms of life. It is in
the investigation of the “Protists,” the study of the vital phenomena of
the microscopically minute unicellular organisms, that attempts of this
kind have been most frequently made. And they follow the course we have
just indicated; the “apparently” vitalistic and psychical behaviour of
unicellulars (impulse, will, spontaneous movement, selecting and
experimenting) is interpreted in terms of reflex processes and the
“irritability” of the cell, and these again are traced back, like all
stimulus-processes, to the subtle mechanics of the atoms.

Spontaneous Generation.

4. This reduction of known biological phenomena to simpler terms, the
lessening of the gap between inorganic and organic chemistry, and the
formulation of the doctrine of the conservation of energy, have all
prepared the way for a fourth step, the establishment of the inevitable
theory of _generatio spontanea sive equivoca_, the spontaneous generation
of the living, that is to say, the gradual evolution of the living from
the not living. Since the earth, and with it the conditions under which
alone life is possible, have had a beginning in time, life upon the earth
must also have had a beginning. The assumption that the first living
organisms may have come to the earth on meteorites simply shifts the
problem a step farther back, for according to all current theories of the
universe, if there are in any of the heavenly bodies conditions admitting
of the presence of life, these conditions have arisen from others in which
life was impossible. Therefore, since this suggestion is on the face of it
a mere evasion of the difficulty, the theory of spontaneous generation
naturally arose. There is something almost comical in the change in the
attitude of the natural sciences to this theory. For centuries it was one
of the beliefs of popular superstition, with its naïve way of regarding
nature, that earthworms “developed” from damp soil, and vermin from
shavings, and in general that the living arose from the non-living. On the
other hand it was one of the characteristics and axioms of scientific
thought to reject this naïve _generatio equivoca_, and to hold fast to the
proposition, _omne vivum ex ovo_, or, at least, _omne vivum ex vivo_. And
it was regarded as one of the triumphs of modern science when, about the
middle of the last century, Pasteur gave definiteness to this doctrine,
and when through him, through Virchow, and indeed the whole younger
generation of naturalists, the proposition was modified, on the basis of
the newly discovered cell-theory, to _omnis cellula ex cellula_. But a
short time after Pasteur’s discoveries, the ideas of Darwinism and the
theory of evolution gained widespread acceptance. And now it appeared
that, in rejecting the theory of _generatio equivoca_, naturalists had, so
to speak, sawn off the branch on which they desired to sit, and thus many,
like Haeckel, became enthusiastic converts to the theory which natural
science had previously rejected.

Constructing theories and speculations as to the possibilities of
spontaneous generation is regarded by some naturalists as somewhat
gratuitous (_cf._ Du Bois-Reymond). In general, it is regarded as
sufficient to point out that the reduction of the phenomena of life as we
know them to those of a simpler order, and the unification of organic and
inorganic chemistry, have made the problem of the first origin of life
essentially simpler, and that the law of the constancy and identity of
energy throughout the universe permits no other theory. But others go more
determinedly to work, and attempt to give concrete illustrations of the
problem. The most elementary form of life known to us is the cell. From
cells and their combinations, their products and secretions, all
organisms, plant and animal alike, are built up. If we succeed in deriving
the cell, the derivation of the whole world of life seems, with the help
of the doctrine of descent, a comparatively simple matter. The cell itself
seems to stand nearer to the inorganic, and to be less absolutely apart
from the inanimate world than a highly organised body, differentiated as
to its functions and organs, such as a mammal. It almost seems as if we
might regard the lowest forms of life known to us, which seem little more
than aggregated homogeneous masses of flowing rather than creeping
protoplasm, as an intermediate link between the higher forms of life and
the non-living. But the theory does not begin with the cell; it assumes a
series of connecting-links (which may of course be as long and as
complicated as the series from the cell upwards to man) between the cell
and matter which is still quite “inorganic” and which is capable only of
the everyday chemical and physical phenomena, and not of the higher
syntheses of these, which in their increasing complexity and diversity
ultimately come to represent “life” in its most primitive forms. As
proteid is the chief constituent of protoplasm, it is regarded as the
specific physical basis of life, and life is looked upon as the sum of its
functions. And it is not doubted that, if the conditions of the universe
brought about a natural combination of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and
oxygen in certain proportions, so that proteid resulted, the transition to
proteid which forms itself and renews itself from the surrounding
elements, to assimilating, growing, dividing proteid, and ultimately to
the most primitive plasmic structure, to non-nucleated, nucleated, and
finally fully formed cells, could also come about.

Haeckel’s demonstration of the possibility of spontaneous generation is
along these lines. He refers to the cytodes, the blood corpuscles, to
alleged or actual non-nucleated cells, to bacteria, to the simplest forms
of cell-structure, as proofs of the possibility of a descending series of
connecting-links. He (and with him Nägeli) calls these links, below the
level of the cell, Probia or Probions, and for a time he believed that he
had discovered in _Bathybius Haeckeli_ presently existing homogeneous
living masses, without cell division, nucleus or structure, the “primitive
slime” which apparently existed in the abysmal depths of the ocean to this
day. Unfortunately, this primitive slime soon proved itself an illusion.

Opinions differ as to whether spontaneous generation took place only in
the beginning of evolution, or whether it occurred repeatedly and is still
going on. Most naturalists incline to the former idea; Nägeli champions
the latter. There are also differences of opinion as to whether the origin
of life from the non-living was manifold, and took place at many different
places on the earth, or whether all the forms of life now in existence
have arisen from a common source (monophyletic and polyphyletic theories).

The Mechanics of Development.

5. The minds of the supporters of the mechanical theory had still to move
along a fifth line in order to solve the riddle of the development of the
living individual from the egg, or of the germ to its finished form, the
riddle of morphogenesis. They cannot assume the existence of “the whole”
before the part, or equip it with the idea of the thing as a _spiritus
rector_, playing the part of a metaphysical controlling agency. Here as
elsewhere they must demonstrate the existence of purely mechanical
principles. It is simply from the potential energies inherent in its
constituent parts that the supply of energy must flow, by means of which
the germ is able to make use of inorganic material from without, to
assimilate it and increase its own substance, and, by using it up, to
maintain and increase its power of work, to break up the carbonic acid of
the atmosphere and to gain the carbon which is so important for its vital
functions, to institute and organise the innumerable chemico-physical
processes by means of which its form is built up. Purely as a consequence
of the chemico-physical nature of the germ, of the properties of the
substances included in it on the one hand, and of the implicit structure
and configuration of its parts, down to the intrinsic specific undulatory
rhythm of its molecules, it must follow that its mass grows exactly as it
does, and not otherwise, that it behaves as it does and not otherwise,
duplicating itself by division after division, and by intricate changes
arranging and rearranging the results of division until the embryo or
larva, and finally the complete organism, is formed.

An extraordinary amount of ingenuity has been expended in this connection,
in order to avoid here, where perhaps it is most difficult of all, the use
of “teleological” principles, and to remain faithful to the orthodox,
exclusively mechanical mode of interpretation. To this category belong
Darwin’s gemmules, Haeckel’s plastidules, Nägeli’s micellæ, Weismann’s
labyrinth of ids, determinants, and biophors within the germ-plasm, and
Roux’s ingenious hypothesis of the struggle of parts, which is an attempt
to apply the Darwinian principle within the organism in order here also to
rebut the teleological interpretation by giving a scientific one.(66)


6. With this fifth line of thought a sixth is associated and intertwined.
The problem of development is closely bound up with that of “heredity.” A
developing organism follows the parental type. The acorn in its growth
follows the type of the parent oak, repeating all its morphological and
physiological characters down to the most intimate detail. And the animal
organism adds to this also the whole psychical equipment, the instincts,
the capacities of will and consciousness which distinguish its parents.
The problems of the fifth and sixth order are closely inter-related, the
sixth problem being in reality the same as the fifth, only in greater

A step towards the mechanical solution of this problem was indicated in
the “preformation theory” advanced by Leibnitz, and elaborated by Bonnet.
According to this theory the developing organism is enclosed in the
minutest possible form within the egg, and is thus included in the
parental organism, in miniature indeed, but quite complete. Thus the
problem of the “development of form” or of “heredity” was, so to speak,
ruled out of court; all that was assumed was continuous growth and

Opposed to this theory was one of later growth, the theory of epigenesis,
which maintained that the organism developed without preformation from the
still undifferentiated and homogeneous substance of the egg. The
supporters of the first theory considered themselves much more scientific
and exact than those of the second. And not without reason. For the theory
of epigenesis obviously required mysterious formative principles, and
equally mysterious powers of recollection and recapitulation, which
impelled the undifferentiated ovum substance into the final form,
precisely like that of its ancestors. Nor need the preformationists have
greatly feared the reproach, that the parental organism must have been
included within the grand-parental, and so on backwards to the first
parents in Paradise. For this “Chinese box” encapsulement theory only
requires that we should grant the idea of the infinitely little, and that
idea is already an integral part of our thinking.

Modern biologists ridicule the preformation hypothesis as altogether too
artificial. And undoubtedly it founders on the facts of embryology, which
disclose nothing to suggest the unfolding of a pre-existent miniature
model, but show us how the egg-cell divides into two, into four, and so
on, with continued multiplication followed by varied arrangements and
rearrangements of cells—in short, all the complex changes which constitute
development. But a preformation in some sense or other there must be;—some
peculiar material predisposition of the germ, which, as such, supplies the
directing principle for the development, and the sufficient reason for the
repetition of the parental form. This is of such obvious importance from
the mechanical point of view that the speculations of to-day tend to move
along the old preformationist lines. To these modern preformationists are
opposed the modern upholders of epigenesis or gradual differentiation, who
attempt to elaborate a mechanical theory of development. And with the
contrast between these two schools there is necessarily associated the
discussion as to the inheritance or non-inheritance of acquired

Darwin’s contribution to the problem of the sixth order was his rather
vague theory of “Pangenesis.” The living organism, according to him, forms
in its various organs, parts, and cells exceedingly minute particles of
living matter (gemmules), which, “in some way or other,” bear within them
the special characteristics of the part in which they are produced. These
may wander through the organism and meet in the germ-plasm, and then, when
a child-organism is produced, they “swarm,” so to speak, in it again “in
some way or other,” and in some fashion control the development. This
gemmule-theory was too obviously a _quid pro quo_ to hold its ground for
long. Various theories were elaborated, and the world of the invisibly
minute was flooded with speculations.

The most subtle of these, on the side of consistent Darwinism, is that of
Weismann, a pronounced preformation theory which has been increasingly
refined and elaborated in the course of years of reflection. According to
Weismann, the individual parts and characteristics of the organism are
represented in the germ-plasm, not in finished form, but as “determinants”
in a definite system which is itself the directing principle in the
building up of the bodily system, and with definite characteristics, which
determine the peculiarities of the individual organs and parts, down to
scales, hairs, skin-spots, and birth-marks. As the germ-cells have the
power of growth, and can increase endlessly by dividing and re-dividing,
and as each process of division takes place in such a way that each half
(each product of division) maintains the previous system, there arise
innumerable germ-cells corresponding to one another, from which,
therefore, corresponding bodies must arise (inheritance). It is not in
reality the newly developed bodies which give rise to new germ-cells and
transfer to them something of their own characters; the germ-cells of the
child-organism develop from that of the parent (“immortality” of the
germ-cells). Therefore there can be no inheritance of acquired characters,
and no modifications of type through external causes; and all variations
which appear in a series of generations are due solely to internal
variations in the germ-cells, whether brought about by the complication of
their system through the fusion of the male and female germ-cells, or
through differences in the growth of the individual determinants
themselves. The numerous subsidiary theses interwoven in Weismann’s theory
are entirely coherent, and have been thought out to their conclusions with
praiseworthy determination.(67) To the theory as a whole, because of its
fundamental conception of preformation, and to its subsidiary hypotheses,
piece by piece, there has been energetic opposition on the part of the
upholders of the modern mechanical theory of epigenesis. This opposition
is most concretely and comprehensively expressed in Haacke’s “Gestaltung
und Vererbung.” The infinitely complex intricacy of Weismann’s minute
microcosm within the germ-cell, indeed within every id in it, is justly
described as a mere duplication, a repetition in the infinitely little of
the essential difficulties to be explained. The complicated processes of
developing in the growing and inheriting organism cannot be explained,
they say, in terms of processes of the equally complex and likewise
developing germ-plasm. The complex, if it is to be explained at all, must
be explained by the simple—in this case by the functions of a homogeneous
uniform plasm.

At an earlier date Haeckel had made an attempt in this direction in his
theory of the “perigenesis of the plastidules.” Peculiar states of
oscillation and rhythm in the molecules of the germ-substance, handed on
to it from the parent organism and transferable to all the assimilated
matter of the offspring, represent, according to this theory, the
principle which impels development to follow a particular course
corresponding to the type of the parents. This was a _physical_ way of
interpreting the matter. Other investigators have given a _chemical_
expression to their theoretical schemes for explaining heredity.

Haacke declares both these to be unsatisfactory, and replaces them by
morphological formative principles. It is the _structure_ of the otherwise
homogeneous living matter that explains morphogenesis and inheritance.
Minute “gemmæ,” homogeneous fundamental particles of living substance, not
to be compared to or confused with Darwin’s “gemmules,” are aggregated in
“Gemmaria,” whose configuration, stability, symmetrical or asymmetrical
structure, and so on, are determined by the relative positions of the
gemmæ to each other, and these in their turn control the organism and give
it a corresponding symmetrical or asymmetrical, a firmly or loosely
aggregated structure. The completed organism then forms a system in
organic equilibrium, which is constantly exposed to variations and
influences due to external causes (St. Hilaire), and to use and disuse of
organs (Lamarck). These influences affect the structure of the gemmaria,
and as the germ-cells consist of gemmaria, like those of the rest of the
organism, the possibility of the transmission of acquired new characters
is self-evident. The importance of correlated growth and orthogenesis is
explained on a similar basis, and the Darwinian conceptions of the
independent variation of individual parts, of the exclusive dominance of
utility, of the influence of the struggle for existence in regard to
individual selection, and of the omnipotence of natural selection, are
energetically denied.

Oscar Hertwig,(68) de Vries, Driesch(69) and others attempt to reconcile
the preformationist and the epigenetic standpoints, and “to extract what
is good and usable out of both.” Hertwig and Driesch, however, can only be
mentioned with reservations in this connection.

We cannot better sum up the whole tendency of the construction of
mechanical theories on these last lines than in the words of Schwann:
“There is within the organism no fundamental force working according to a
definite idea; it arises in obedience to the blind laws of necessity.”

So much for the different lines followed by the mechanical theories of
to-day. An idea of their general tenor can be gained from a series of much
quoted general treatises, of which we must mention at least the
“classics.” In Wagner’s “Handwörterbuch der Physiologie,” 1842, Vol. I.,
Lotze wrote a long introductory article to the whole work, on “Life and
Vital Force.” It was the challenge of the newer views to the previously
vitalistic standpoint, and at the same time it was based on Lotze’s
general principles and interspersed with philosophical criticism of the
concepts of force, cause, effect, law, &c.(70) A similar train of ideas to
Lotze’s is followed to-day by O. Hertwig, especially in his “Mechanismus
und Biologie.”(71) Lighter and more elegant was the polemic against vital
force, and the outline of a mechanical theory which Du Bois-Reymond
prefaced to his great work, “Untersuchungen über die tierische
Electricität” (1849). It did not go nearly so deep as Lotze’s essay, but
perhaps for that very reason its phrases and epigrams soon became common
property. We may recall how he speaks of vital force as a “general servant
for everybody,” of the iron atom which remains the same whether it be in
the meteorite in cosmic space, in the wheel of the railway carriage, or in
the blood of the thinker, and of analytic mechanics which may be applied
even to the problem of personal freedom.

The most comprehensive and detailed elaboration of the mechanical theory
of life is to be found in Herbert Spencer’s “Principles of Biology.”(72)
Friedrich Albert Lange’s “History of Materialism” is a brilliant plea for
mechanical theories,(73) which he afterwards surpassed and neutralised by
his Kantian Criticism. Verworn, too, in his “Physiology”(74) gives a clear
example of the way in which the mechanical theory in its most consistent
form is sublimed, apparently in the idealism of Kant and Fichte, but in
reality in its opposite—the Berkeleyan psychology. A similar outcome is in
various ways indicated in the modern trend of things.


In attempting to define our attitude to the mechanical theory of life, we
have first of all to make sure that we have a right to take up a definite
position at all. We should have less right, or perhaps none, if this
theory of life were really of a purely “biological” nature, built up
entirely from the expert knowledge and data which the biologist alone
possesses. But the principles, assumptions, supplementary ideas and modes
of expression along all the six lines we have discussed, the style and
method according to which the hypothesis is constructed, the multitude of
separate presuppositions with which it works, and indeed everything that
helps to build up and knit the biological details into a scientific
hypothesis, are the materials of rational synthesis in general, and as
such are subject to general as well as to biological criticism. What is
there, for instance, in Weismann’s ingenious biophor-theory that can be
called specifically biological, and not borrowed from other parts of the
scientific system?

One advantage, indeed, the biologist always has in this matter, apart from
his special knowledge; that is, the technical instinct, the power of
scenting out, so to speak, and immediately feeling the importance of the
facts pertaining to his own discipline. It is this that gives every
specialist the advantage over the layman in dealing with the data of his
own subject. This power of instinctively appraising facts, which develops
in the course of all special work, can, for instance in hypotheses in the
domain of history, transform small details, which to the layman seem
trivial, into weighty arguments. Similarly it may be that the success of
the mechanical interpretation in regard to isolated processes may make its
validity for many other allied processes certain, even though there is no
precise proof of this. But we cannot regard this as a final demonstration
of the applicability of the mechanical theory, since the same technical
instinct in other experts leads them to reject the whole hypothesis.

But here we are met with something surprising. May it not be that while we
are impelled on general grounds to contend against the mechanical
interpretation of vital phenomena, we are not so impelled on _religious_
grounds? May it not be that the instinct of the religious consciousness is
misleading when it impels us—as probably every one will be able to certify
from his own experience—to rebel against this mechanisation of life, the
mechanical solution of its mysteries? Lotze, the energetic antagonist of
“vital force,” the founder of the mechanical theory of vital processes,
was himself a theist, and was so far from recognising any contradiction
between the mechanical point of view and the Christian belief in God, that
he included the former without ceremony in his theistic philosophical
speculations. His view has become that of many theologians, and is often
expressed in a definition of the boundaries between theology and natural
science. According to the idea which was formulated by Lotze, and
developed by others along his lines, the matter is quite simple. The
interest which religion has in the processes of nature is at once and
exclusively to be found in teleology. Are there purposes, plans, and ideas
which govern and give meaning to the whole? The interest of natural
science is purely in recognising inviolable causality; every phenomenon
must have its compelling and sufficient reason in the system of causes
preceding it. All that is and happens is absolutely determined by its
causes, and nothing, no _causæ finales_ for instance, can co-operate with
these causes in determining the result. But, as Lotze says, and as we have
repeatedly pointed out, causal explanation does not exclude a
consideration from the point of view of purpose, and the mechanical
interpretation does not do so either. For this is nothing more than the
causal explanation itself, only carried to complete consistency and
definiteness. Purposes and ideas are not efficient causes but results.
Where, for instance, there is a controlled purposive occurrence, the
“purpose” nowhere appears as a factor co-operating with the series of
causes, for these follow according to strict law, and the “purpose”
reveals itself at the close of the series, as the result of a closed
causal nexus, complete in itself, always provided that the initial links
in the chain have been accurately estimated. The same is true of the
processes of life. They are the ultimate result, strictly necessary and
sufficiently accounted for in terms of mechanical sequence, of a long
chain of causes whose initial links imply a definite constitution which
could not be further reduced. Whether this ultimate result is merely a
result or whether it is also a “purpose” is a question which, as we have
seen twice already, it is wholly beyond the power of the causal mode of
interpretation to answer. Given that an infinite intelligence in the world
wished to realise purposes without instituting them as directly
accomplished, but by letting them express themselves through a gradual
“becoming,” the method would be exactly what is shown in the mechanical
theory of life, that is, the primitive data and starting-points would have
inherent in them a peculiar constitution and a rigidly inexorable
orderliness of causal sequence. And Lotze emphasises that it would also be
worthier of God to achieve the greatest by means of the simplest, and to
work out the realisation of His eternal purposes according to the strict
inevitableness of mechanism, than to attain His ends through the
complicated means, the adventitious aids, and all the irregularities
implied in the incommensurable activities of a “vital force.” (“God needs
no minor gods.”)

To Lotze himself these original data and starting points are the primitive
forms of life, which, according to his view, are directly “given,” and
cannot be referred back to anything else (except to “creation”). But it is
obvious that his view can be enlarged and extended so as to refer the
derivation of the whole animate world to the original raw materials of the
cosmos (energy, matter, or whatsoever they may be), and to the orderly
process by which these materials were combined in various configurations
to form the chemical elements, the chemical compounds, living proteids,
the first cell, and the whole series of higher forms. If this nexus has
taken place, it is nothing else than the transformation of the “potential”
into the “actual” through strict causality. And if this actuality proves
itself to have claims, because of its own intrinsic worth, to be
considered as intelligent “purpose,” the whole system of means, including
the starting-point, can be recognised as the means to an end, and the
original wisdom and the intelligence which ordained the purpose is only
glorified the more through the great simplicity, the rational
comprehensibility, and the inexorable necessity of the system, which
excludes all chance, and therewith all possibility of error.

This extension of Lotze’s reconciliation of the mechanical causal with the
teleological point of view is impressive and, as far as it goes, also
quite convincing. It will never be given up, even if the point of view
should change somewhat. And we have already seen that it is quite
sufficient as long as we are dealing only with the question of teleology.
But we must ask whether religion will be satisfied with “teleology” alone,
or whether this is even the first requirement that it makes in regard to
natural phenomena. We have already asked the question and attempted to
clear the ground for an answer. Let us try to make it more definite.

Many people will have a certain uneasiness in regard to the Lotzian ideas;
they will be unable to rid themselves of a feeling that this way of
looking at things is only a _pis aller_ for the religious point of view,
and that the fundamental requirements of religious feeling receive very
inadequate satisfaction on this method. The world of life which has arisen
thus is altogether too rational and transparent. It is calculable and
mathematical. It satisfies well enough the need for teleology, and with
that the need for a supreme, universally powerful and free intelligence;
but it gives neither support nor nourishment to the essential element in
religious feeling, through which alone faith becomes in the strict sense
religious. Religion, even Christian religion, is, so to speak, a
stratified structure, a graduated pyramid, expressing itself, at its
second (and undoubtedly higher) level, in our recognition of purpose, the
rationality of the world, our own spiritual and personal being and worth,
but implying at its basis an inward sense of the mysterious, a joy in that
which is incommensurable and unspeakable, which fills us with awe and
devotion. And religion at the second stage must not sweep away the essence
of the stage below, but must include it, at the same time informing it
with new significance. Whoever does not possess his religion in this way
will agree with, and will be quite satisfied with the Lotzian standpoint.
But to any one who has experience of the most characteristic element in
religion, it will be obvious that there must be a vague but deep-rooted
antipathy between religion and the mathematical-mechanical conception of
things. Evidence of the truth of this is to be found in the instinctive
perceptions and valuations which mark even the naïve expressions of the
religious consciousness.(75) For it is in full sympathy with a world which
is riddled with what is inconceivable and incommensurable, in full
sympathy with every evidence of the existence of such an element in the
world of nature and mind, and therefore with every proof that the merely
mechanical theory has its limits, that it does not suffice, and that its
very insufficiency is a proof that the world is and remains in its depths
mysterious. Now we have already said that the true sphere for such feeling
is not the outer court of nature, but within the realm of the emotional
life and of history, and, on the other hand, that even if the attempt to
trace life back to the simpler forces of nature were successful, we should
still be confronted with the riddle of the sphinx. But any one who would
say frankly what he felt would at once be obliged to admit that the
religious sense is very strongly stirred by the mystery of vital
phenomena, and that in losing this he would lose a domain very dear to
him. These sympathies and antipathies are in themselves sufficient to give
an interest to the question of the insufficiency of the mechanical view of

For it is by no means the case that the mechanical theory, with its
premisses and principles, is the interpretation that best fits the facts,
and that most naturally arises out of a calm consideration of the animate
world. It is an artificial scheme, and astonishing energy has been
expended on the attempt to fit it to the actual world, that it may make
this orderly and translucent. It certainly yields this service so far, but
not without often becoming a kind of strait-jacket, and revealing itself
as an artificiality. In so far as the special problems of biology are
concerned, we shall afterwards follow our previous method of taking our
orientation from those specialists in the subject who, in reaction from
the one-sidedness of the mechanical doctrine, have founded the
“neo-vitalism” of to-day. Here we are only concerned with the generalities
and presuppositions of the theory.

We must dispute even the main justification of the theory, which is sought
for in the old maxim of parsimony in the use of principles of explanation
(_entia_, and also _principia, præter necessitatem non esse
multiplicanda_), and in Kant’s “regulative principle,” that science must
proceed as if everything could ultimately be explained in terms of
mechanism. For surely our task is to try to explain things, not at any
cost with the fewest possible principles, but rather with the aid of those
principles which appear most correct. If nature is not fundamentally
simple, then it is not scientific but unscientific to simplify it
theoretically. And the proposition bracketed above has its obvious
converse side, that while entities and principles must not be multiplied
except when it is necessary, on the other hand their number must not be
arbitrarily lessened. To proceed according to the fundamental maxims of
the mechanistic view can only be wholesome for a time and, so to speak,
for pædagogical reasons. To apply them seriously and permanently would be
highly injurious, for, by prejudging what is discoverable in nature, it
would tend to prevent the calm, objective study of things which asks for
nothing more than to see them as they are. It would thus destroy the
fineness of our appreciation of what there really is in nature. This is
true alike of forcible attempts to reduce the processes of life to
mechanical processes, and of the Darwinian doctrine of the universal
dominance of utility. Both bear unmistakably the stamp of foregone
conclusions, and betray a desire for the simplest, rather than for the
most correct principles of interpretation.

There is one point which presses itself on the notice even of outsiders,
and is probably realised even more keenly by specialists. The confidence
of the supporters of the mechanical theories of earlier days, from
Descartes onward, that animals and the bodies of men were machines,
mechanical automata, down to the mechanical theories of Lamettrie and
Holbach, of _l’homme machine_, and of the _système de la nature_, was at
least as great as, probably greater than, that of the supporters of the
modern theories. Yet how naïve and presumptuous seem the crude and wooden
theories upon which the mechanical system was formerly built up, and how
falsely interpreted seem the physiological and other facts which lent them
support, when seen in the light of our modern physiological knowledge.
Vaucanson’s or Drozsch’s duck-automaton or clockwork-man, with which the
mechanical theorists of bygone days amused themselves, would not go far to
encourage the physiologist of to-day to pursue his mechanical studies, but
would rather throw a vivid light on the impossibility of comparing the
living “machine” with machines in the usual sense. For things emphatically
do not happen within the living organism in the same way as in the
automatic duck, and the more exact the resemblance to the functions of a
“real” duck became, the more did the system of means by which the end was
attained become unlike vital processes. It is difficult to resist the
impression that in another hundred years,—perhaps again from the
standpoint of new and definitely accepted mechanical explanations,—people
will regard our developmental mechanics, cellular mechanics, and other
vital mechanics much in the same way as we now look on Vaucanson’s duck.

Associated or even identical with this is the fact that in proportion as
mechanical interpretation advances, the difficulties it has to surmount
continually crop up anew. Processes which seem of the simplest kind and
the most likely to be capable of purely mechanical explanation, processes
such as those of assimilation, digestion, respiration, for which it was
believed that exact parallels existed in the purely mechanical domain, as,
for instance, in the osmotic processes of porous membranes, are seen when
closely scrutinised as they occur in the living body to be extremely
complex; in fact they have to be transferred “provisionally” from the
mechanical to the vital rubric. To this category belong the whole modern
development of the cell-theory, which replaces the previously _single_
mechanism in the living body by millions of them, every one of which
raises as many problems as the one had done in the days of cruder
interpretation. Every individual cell, as it appears to our understanding
to-day, is at least as complicated a riddle as the whole organism formerly

But further: the modern development of biology has emphasised a special
problem, which was first formulated by Leibnitz (though it is in
antithesis to his fundamental Monad-theory), and which appears incapable
of solution on mechanical lines. Leibnitz declared living beings to be
“machines,” but machines of a peculiar kind. Even the most complicated
machine, in the ordinary sense, consists of a combination of smaller
“machines,” that is to say, of wheels, systems of levers, &c., of a
simpler kind. And these sub-machines may in their turn consist of still
simpler ones, and so on. But ultimately a stage is reached when the
component parts are homogeneous, and cannot be analysed into simpler
machines. It is otherwise with the organism. According to Leibnitz it
consists of machines made up of other machines, and so on, into the
infinitely little. However far we can proceed in our analysis of the
parts, we shall still find that they are syntheses, made up of most
ingeniously complex component parts, and this as far as our powers of
seeing and distinguishing will carry us. That is to say: organisation is
continued on into the infinitely little.

Leibnitz’s illustration of the fish-pond is well known. He could have no
better corroboration of his theory than the results of modern
investigation afford. His doctrine of the continuation of organisation
downwards into ever smaller expression is confirmed to a certain extent
even by anatomy. By analysing structural organisation down to cells a
definite point seemed to have been reached. But it now appears that at
that point the problem is only beginning. One organisation is made up of
other organisations—cells, protoplasm, nucleus, nucleolus, centrosomes,
and so on, according to the power of the microscope; and these structures,
instead of explaining the vital functions of growth, development,
multiplication by division, and the rest, simply repeat them on a smaller
scale, and are thus in their turn living units, the aggregation of which
is illustrated better by the analogy of a social organism than by that of
a mechanical structure.

In order to follow the mechanical explanation along the six lines we have
previously indicated, we shall, as we have already said, entrust ourselves
to the specialists who are on the opposite side. The difficulties and
objections which the mechanical theory has to face have forced themselves
insistently upon us even in the course of a short sketch such as has just
been given, but they will be clearly realised if we approach them from the
other side. But, first of all, a word as to the fundamental and, it is
alleged, unassailable doctrine on which the theory as a whole is based,
the “law of the conservation of energy.” The appeal to this, at any rate
in the way in which it is usually made, is apt to be so distorted that the
case must first be clearly stated before we can get further with the

The Law of the Conservation of Energy.

Helmholtz’s proof established mathematically what Kant had already, by
direct insight, advanced as an _à priori_ fundamental axiom: that in any
given system the sum of energy can neither increase (impossibility of a
_perpetuum mobile_) nor diminish (there is no disappearance of energy, but
only transformation into another form). But even the vitalist had no need
to deny this proposition. The “energy” which is required for the work of
directing, setting agoing, changing and rearranging the chemico-physical
processes in the body, and bringing about the effective reactions to
stimuli which result in “development,” “transmission,” “regeneration,” and
so on—if indeed any energy is required—of course could not come “from
within” as a spontaneous increase of the existing sum of energy—that
would, indeed, be a magical becoming out of nothing!—but must naturally be
thought of as coming “from without.” The appeal to the law of the
conservation of energy is therefore in itself irrelevant; but it conceals
behind it an assertion of a totally different kind, namely, that in
relation to physico-chemical sequences there can be no “without,” nothing
transcending them—an assertion which Helmholtz’s arguments cannot and were
never intended to establish. But before any definite attitude to this
newly imported assertion could be taken up, it would require to be
distinctly defined, and that would lead us at once into all the depths of
epistemological discussion. Here, therefore, we can only say so much: If
this assertion is accepted it is well to see where it carries us; namely,
back to the first-described naïve standpoint, which, without critical
scruples, quite seriously accepts the world as it appears to it for the
reality, and quite seriously speaks of an infinity lying in time behind
us—and therefore come to an end—and is not in the least disturbed from its
“dogmatic slumber” by this or any of the other great antinomies of our
conception of the universe. And it remains, too, for this standpoint to
come to terms with the fact that, in voluntary actions, of which we have
the most direct knowledge, we have through our will the power of
intervention in the physico-chemical nexus of our bodily energies—a fact
which implies the existence of a “without,” from which interpolations or
influences may flow into the physico-chemical system, even if there be
none in regard to the domain of “vital” phenomena. And we should require
to find out through what parallelistic or abruptly idealistic system the
“without” was done away with in this case. For if a transcendental basis,
or reverse side, or cause of things, be admitted—even if only in the form
of our materialistic popular metaphysics (the “substance” of Haeckel’s
“world-riddle”)—then a “without,” from which primarily the cosmic system
with its constant sum of matter and energy is explained, is also admitted,
and it is difficult to see why it should have exhausted itself in this
single effort.

Criticisms of the Mechanistic Theory of Life.

The course of the mechanistic theory of life has been surprisingly similar
to that of its complement, the theory of the general evolution of the
organic world. The two great doctrines of the schools, Darwinism on the
one hand, the mechanical interpretation of life on the other, are both
tottering, not because of the criticism of outsiders, but of specialists
within the schools themselves. And the interest which religion has in this
is the same in both cases: the transcendental nature of things, the
mysterious depth of appearance, which these theories denied or obscured,
become again apparent. The incommensurableness and mystery of the world,
which are, perhaps, even more necessary to the very life of religion than
the right to regard it teleologically, reassert themselves afresh in the
all-too-comprehensible and mathematically-formulated world, and
re-establish themselves, notwithstanding obstinate and persistent attempts
to do away with them. This is perhaps to the advantage of both natural
science and religion: to the advantage of religion because it can with
difficulty co-exist with the universal dominance of the mathematical way
of looking at things; to the advantage of natural science because, in
giving up the one-sidedness of the purely quantitative outlook, it does
not give up its “foundations,” its “right to exist,” but only a _petitio
principii_ and a prejudice that compelled it to exploit nature rather than
to explain it, and to prescribe its ways rather than to seek them out.

The reaction from the one-sided mechanical theories shows itself in many
different ways and degrees. It may, according to the individual
naturalist, affect the theory as a whole, or only certain parts of it, or
only particular lines. It starts with mere criticism and with objections,
which go no further than saying that “in the meantime” we are still far
from having reached a physico-chemical solution of the riddle of life; it
may ascend through all stages up to an absolute rejection of the theory as
an idiosyncrasy of the time which impedes the progress of investigation,
and as an uncritical prejudice of the schools. It may remain at the level
of mere protest, and content itself with demonstrating the insufficiency
of the mechanical explanation, without attempting to formulate any
independent theory for the domain of the vital; or it may construct a
specifically biological theory, claiming independence amid other
disciplines, and basing this claim on the autonomy of vital processes; or
it may widen out deliberately into metaphysical study and speculation.
Taken at all these levels it presents such a complete section of the trend
of modern ideas and problems that it would be an attractive study even
apart from the special interest which attaches to it from the point of
view of religious and idealistic conceptions of the universe.

Both Liebig and Johannes Müller remained vitalists, notwithstanding the
discovery of the synthesis of urea and the increasing number of organic
compounds which were built up artificially by purely chemical methods. It
was only about the middle of the last century that the younger generation,
under the leadership, in Germany, of Du Bois-Reymond in particular, went
over decidedly to the mechanistic side, and carried the doctrines of the
school to ever fresh victories. But opposition was not lacking from the
outset, though it was restrained and cautious.

Virchow’s “Caution”.

Here, as also in regard to “Darwinism,” which was advanced about the same
time, the typical advocate of “caution” was Rudolf Virchow. His doubts and
reservations found utterance very soon after the theory itself had been
promulgated. In his “Cellular Pathologie,”(76) and in an essay on “The Old
Vitalism and the New,”(77) he puts in a word for a _vis vitalis_. The old
vitalism, he declared, had been false because it assumed, not a _vis_, but
a _spiritus vitalis_. The substances in animate and in inanimate bodies
have undoubtedly absolutely the same properties. Nevertheless, “we must at
once rid ourselves of the scientific prudery of regarding the processes of
life solely as the mechanical result of the molecular forces inherent in
their constituent bodily parts.” The essential feature of life is a
derived and communicated force _additional_ to the molecular forces.
Whence it comes we are not told. He glided all round the problem with
platitudinarian expressions, which were intended to show his own adherence
as a matter of course to the new biological school, and which revealed at
the same time his striking incapacity for defining a problem with any
precision. At a “certain period in the evolution of the earth” this force
arose, as the ordinary mechanical movements “swung over” into the vital.
But it is thus a special form of movement, which detaches itself from the
great constants of general movement, and runs its course alongside of, and
in constant relation to, these. (Did ever vitalist assert more?) After
thus preparing the way for a return of the veering process at a particular
stage of evolution, and giving the necessary assurances against the
“diametrically opposed dualistic position,” Virchow employs almost all the
arguments against the mechanical theory which vitalists have ever brought
forward. Even the catalytic properties of ferments are above the
“ordinary” physical and chemical forces. The movement of crystallisation,
too, cannot be compared with the vital movement. For vital force is not
immanent in matter, but is always the product of previous life.(78) In the
simplest processes of growth and nutrition the _vis vitalis_ plays its
vital _rôle_. This is true in a much greater degree of the processes of
development and morphogenesis. In the phenomena of irritability life
reveals its spontaneity through “responses,” and so on. “Peu d’anatomie
pathologique éloigne du vitalisme, beaucoup d’anatomie pathologique y

It is impossible to make much of this position. It leaves the theory with
one of the opposing parties, the practice with the other, and the problem
just where it was before.

Preyer’s Position.

Along with Virchow, we must name another of the older generation, the
physiologist William Preyer, who combated “vitalism,” “dualism,” and
“mechanism” with equal vehemence, and issued a manifesto, already somewhat
solemn and official, against “vital force.” And yet he must undoubtedly be
regarded as a vitalist by mechanists and vitalists alike.(79) He is more
definite than Virchow, for he does not content himself with general
statements as to the “origin” of vital force, and of the “swinging over”
of the merely mechanical energies into the domain of the vital, but holds
decidedly to the proposition _omne vivum e vivo_. He therefore maintains
that life has always existed in the cosmos, and entirely rejects
spontaneous generation.

The fallacy, he says, of the mechanistic claims was due to the increasing
number of physical explanations of isolated vital phenomena, and of
imitations of the chemical products of organic metabolism. A wrong
conclusion was drawn from these. “Any one who hopes to deduce from the
chemical and physical properties of the fertilised egg the necessity that
an animal, tormented by hunger and love must, after a certain time, arise
therefrom, has a pathetic resemblance to the miserable manufacturers of
homunculi.” Life is one of the underivable and inexplicable fundamental
functions of universal being. From all eternity life has only been
produced from life.

As Preyer accepts the Kant-Laplace theory of the origin of our earth from
the sun, he reaches ideas which have points of contact with the
“cosmo-organic” ideas of Fechner. Life was present even when the earth was
a fiery fluid sphere, and was possibly more general and more abundant then
than it is now. And life as we know it may only be a smaller and isolated
expression of that more general life.(80)

Among the younger generation of specialists, those most often quoted as
opponents of the mechanical theory are probably Bunge, Rindfleisch, Kerner
von Marilaun, Neumeister and Wolff. A special group among them, not very
easy to classify, may be called the Tectonists. Associated with them is
Reinke’s “Theory of Dominants.” Driesch started from their ranks, and is a
most interesting example of consistent development from a recognition of
the impossibilities of the mechanistic position to an individually
thought-out vitalistic theory. Hertwig, too, takes a very definite
position of his own in regard to these matters. Perhaps the most original
contribution in the whole field is Albrecht’s “Theory of Different Modes
of Regarding Things.” We may close the list with the name of K. C.
Schneider, who has carried these modern ideas on into metaphysical
speculation. Several others might be mentioned along with and connecting
these representative names.(81)

The Position Of Bunge and Other Physiologists.

For a long time one of the most prominent figures in the controversy was
Prof. G. Bunge, of Basle, who was one of the first modern physiologists to
champion vitalism, and who has tried to show by analogies and
illustrations what is necessarily implied in vital activity.(82) The
mechanical reduction of vital phenomena to physico-chemical forces, he
says, is impossible, and becomes more and more so as our knowledge
deepens. He brings forward a series of convincing examples of the way in
which apparent mechanical explanations have broken down. The absorption of
the chyle through the walls of the intestine seemed to be a mechanically
intelligible process of osmosis and diffusion. But in reality it proves to
be rather a process of selection on the part of the epithelial cells of
the intestine, analogous to the selection and rejection exercised
elsewhere by unicellular organisms. In the same way the epithelial cells
of the mammary glands “select” the suitable substances from the blood. It
is impossible to explain in a mechanical way the power which directs the
innumerable different chemical and physical processes within the organism,
whether they be the bewilderingly purposeful reactions in the individual
life of the cell, which seem to point to psychic processes within the
plasm, or the riddles of development and of inheritance in particular; for
how can a spermatozoon, so small that 500 millions can lie on a cubic
line, be the bearer of all the peculiarities of the father to the son?

In Lecture III. Bunge defines his attitude towards the law of the
conservation of energy. In so doing he unconsciously follows the lines
laid down by Descartes. All processes of movement and all functions
exhibited by the living substance are the results of the accumulated
potential energies, and the sums of work done and energy utilised remain
the same. But the liberation and the direction of these energies is a
factor by itself, which neither increases nor diminishes the sum of
energies. “_Occasiones_” and “_causæ_” are brought into the field once
more. The energies effect the phenomena, but they require “_occasiones_”
to liberate them—thus a stone may fall to the ground by virtue of the
potential energies stored in it at the time of its suspension, but it
cannot fall until the thread by which it hangs has been cut. The function
of the “_occasio_” itself is something quite outside of and without
relation to the effect caused; it is a matter of indifference whether the
thread be cut gently through with a razor or shot in two with a cannon

Kassowitz(83) is an instructive example of how much the force of criticism
has been recognised even by those occupying a convinced mechanical point
of view. He subjects all the different theories which attempt to explain
the chief vital phenomena in mechanical terms to a long and exhaustive
examination. The theories of the organism as a thermodynamic engine,
osmotic theories, theories of ferments, interpretations in terms of
electro-dynamics and molecular-physics—are all examined (chap. iv.); and
the failure of all these hypotheses, notwithstanding the enormous amount
of ingenuity expended in their construction, is summed up in an emphatic
“_Ignoramus_.” “The failure is a striking one,” and it is frankly admitted
that, in strong contrast to the earlier mood of confident hope, there now
prevails a mood of resignation in regard to the mechanical-experimental
investigation of the living organism, and that even specialists of the
first rank are finding that they have to reckon again seriously with vital
force. This breakdown and these admissions do not exactly tend to
prejudice us in favour of the author’s own attempt to substantiate new
mechanical theories.

In the comprehensive text-book of physiological chemistry by R.
Neumeister, the mechanical standpoint seemed to be adhered to as the
ideal. But the same writer forsakes it entirely, and disputes it
energetically in his most recent work, “Betrachtungen über das Wesen der
Lebenserscheinungen”(84) (“Considerations as to the Nature of Vital
Phenomena”). He passes over all the larger problems, such as those of
development, inheritance, regeneration, and confines himself in the main
to the physiological functions of protoplasm, especially to those of the
absorption of food and metabolism. And he shows, by means of
illustrations, in part Bunge’s, in part his own, and in close sympathy
with Wundt’s views, that even these vital phenomena cannot possibly be
explained in terms of chemical affinity, physical osmosis, and the like.
In processes of selection (such as, for instance, the excretion of urea
and the retention of sugar in the blood), the “aim is obvious, but the
causes cannot be recognised.” Psychical processes play a certain part in
the functions of protoplasm in the form of qualitative and quantitative
sensitiveness. All the mechanical processes in living organisms are
initiated and directed by psychical processes. Physical, chemical and
mechanical laws are perfectly valid, but they are not absolutely dominant.
Living matter is to be defined as “a unique chemical system, the molecules
of which, by their peculiar reciprocal action, give rise to psychical and
material processes in such a way that the processes of the one kind are
always causally conditioned and started by those of the other kind.” The
psychical phenomena he regards as transcendental, supernatural,
“mystical,” yet unquestionably also subject to a strict causal nexus,
although the causality must remain for ever concealed. Starting from this
basis, he analyses and rejects the explanations which have been offered in
terms of the analogy of ferments, enzymes, or catalytic processes. In
particular, he disputes Ostwald’s “Energismus” and Verworn’s Biogen

Among the vitalists of to-day, one of the most frequently cited, perhaps,
except Driesch the most frequently cited, is G. Wolff, a _Privatdozent_,
formerly at Würzburg, now at Basle. He has only published short lectures
and essays, and these deal not so much with the mechanical theory as with
Darwinism.(86) But in these writings his main argument is that of his
concluding chapter: the spontaneous adaptiveness of the organism, which
nullifies all contingent theories to explain the purposiveness in ontogeny
and phylogeny. And in his lecture, “Mechanismus und Vitalismus,”(87) in
which he directs his attention especially to criticising Bütschli’s
defence of mechanism, the only problem to which prominence is given is the
one with which we are here concerned. In spite of their brevity, these
writings have given rise to much controversy, because what is peculiar to
the two standpoints is described with precision, and the problem is
clearly defined. His criticism had its starting-point in, and received a
special impulse from an empirical proof, due to a very happy experiment of
his own, of the marvellous regenerative capacity, and the inherent
purposive activity of the living organism. He succeeded in proving that if
the lens of the eye of the newt be excised, it may be regrown. The
importance of this fact is greatly increased if we trace out in detail the
various impossible rival mechanical interpretations which have grown up
around this interesting case. As Driesch says, “It is not a restoration
starting from the wound, it is a substitution starting from a different

The Views of Botanists Illustrated.

It might have been expected that in the domain of plant-biology, if
anywhere, the mechanistic standpoint would have been the prevailing one.
For it is almost a matter of course to regard plants as devoid of
sensation or “psychical” life, and as mechanical systems, chemical
laboratories, and reflex mechanisms, and this way of regarding them has
been made easy by the very marked uniformity and lack of spontaneity in
their vital processes as compared with those of animals. But it is not the
case that mechanical theories have here prevailed. The opposition to them
is just as great here as elsewhere, and from the days of Wigand onwards it
has been almost continuously sustained.(88) Very characteristic is
Pfeffer’s “Pflanzen-Physiologie” (1897), which is written professedly from
the mechanist point of view. “Vitalism,” according to this authority, is
to be rejected, but instead of “vital force” he offers us “given
properties,” and the alleged machine-like collocations of the most minute
elements. In regard, for instance, to the riddle of development and
morphogenesis, we must simply accept it as a “given property,” that the
acorn grows in an oak and nothing else. The chemical explanation of the
vital functions of protoplasm is also to be rejected; as a shattered watch
is no longer a watch though it remains chemically the same, so it is with
protoplasm. The available chemical knowledge of the substances of which
protoplasm is made up is insufficient to render the vital processes
intelligible. Here, as everywhere else, we have to reckon with ultimate
“properties (entities), which we neither can, nor desire to analyse
further.” “The human mind is no more capable of forming a conception of
the ultimate cause of things than of eternity.” If all the views here
indicated were followed out to their logical conclusions, they would
hinder rather than further the process of reduction to terms of
physico-chemical sequences.

Kerner von Marilaun in his “Pflanzenleben” deliberately takes up a
thorough-going vitalist position, and on this point as well as on many
others he opposed the current theory of the school (Darwinism). It is
true, he admits, that many of the phenomena in plants can be explained in
purely mechanical terms, but they are only those which may occur also in
non-living structures. The specific expressions of life cannot be
explained in this way. He shows this more fully in regard to the most
fundamental of all the vital processes in the plant-body—the breaking up
of carbonic acid gas by the chlorophyll to obtain the carbon which is the
fundamental element in all living organisms. We know the requisite
conditions: the supply of raw material, and the sunlight from which the
energy is derived. But how the chlorophyll makes use of these to effect
the breaking up, and how it starts the subsequent syntheses of the carbon
into the most complex organic compounds remains a mystery. And so on
upwards through all the strictly vital phenomena.

Wiesner’s(89) view of things is essentially similar. He gives a very
impressive picture of the mystery of the chemistry of the plant, showing
how small is the number of food-stuffs and raw materials in comparison to
the thousands of highly complex chemical substances which the plant
produces, and how much work there is involved in de-oxydising the food and
in forming syntheses. He, too, refuses, as usual, to postulate “vital
force.” Yet to speak of “the fundamental peculiarities of the living
matter inherent in the organism” and to admit that plants are “irritable,”
“heliotropic,” “geotropic,” &c., amounts to much the same thing as
postulating vital force; that is to say, to a mere naming of the specific
problem of life without explaining it. The author himself admits this when
he says in another place: “If I compare organisms with inorganic systems,
I find that the progress of our knowledge is continually enlarging the
gulf which separates the one from the other!”

These anti-mechanical tendencies show themselves most emphatically in the
work of Fr. Ludwig.(90) In his concluding chapter, after a discussion of
the theories of Darwin, Nägeli, and Weismann, he postulates, for
variation, heredity, and species-formation in particular, “forces other
than physico-chemical,” “let us call them frankly psychical.”

It is instructive to see how these “vitalistic” views crop up even in
studies of detail and of the microscopically small, as for instance in E.
Crato’s “Beiträge zur Anatomie und Physiologie des Elementar-organismus.”
How the living organism contains within itself what is in its turn living,
down into ever smaller detail, (amœboid movements of certain plastines,
physodes,) how incomparable the living organism is with a “machine,” to
which its libellers are so fond of likening it, how it builds itself up,
steers, and stokes itself, how it produces with “playful ease” the most
marvellous and graceful forms, makes combinations and breaks them up, how
analogous its whole activity is to “being able” and “willing,” all this is
clearly brought out.(91)

A very fresh and lucid presentation of the whole case is given by Borodin,
Professor of Botany in St. Petersburg, in his essay, “Protoplasm and Vital
Force.”(92) He sharply castigates the one-sidedness and impetuosity of the
mechanical theory, as in Haeckel’s discovery of Bathybius and of
non-nucleated bacteria. The latter are problematical, and the former has
been proved an illusion. To penetrate farther into the processes of life
is simply to become aware of an ever-deepening series of riddles. There is
no such thing as “protoplasm,” or “living proteid,” or indeed any unified,
simple “living matter” whatever. Artificial “oil-emulsion amoebæ”(93) bear
the same relation to living ones that Vaucanson’s mechanical duck bears to
a real one; that is, none at all. Our “protoplasm” is as mystical as the
old “vital force,” and both are only camping-grounds for our ignorance.
Neither the mechanical nor the atomic theory were the results of exact
investigations; they were borrowed from philosophy. We do indeed
investigate the typically vital process of irritability by physical
methods. But the response made by the organism to physical coercion may be
called a mockery of physics. The mechanists help themselves out with crude
analogies from the mechanical, conceal the problem with the name
“irritability,” and thus get rid of the greatest marvels. If vital force
itself were to call out from its cells, “Here I am,” they would probably
see in it only a remarkable case of “irritability.” Mechanism is no more
positive knowledge than vitalism is; it is only the dogmatic faith of the
majority of present-day naturalists.

Constructive Criticism.

Those whose protests we have hitherto been considering have not added to
their criticism of the mechanical theory any positive contribution of
their own, or at least they give nothing more than very slight hints
pointing towards a psychical theory. But there are others who have sought
to overcome the mechanical theory by gaining a deeper grasp of the nature
of “force” in general. Their attempts have been of various kinds, but
usually tend in one direction, which can perhaps be most precisely and
briefly indicated through Lloyd Morgan’s views, as summed up, for
instance, in his essay on “Vitalism.”(94) In the beginning of biological
text-books, we usually find (he says) a chapter on the nature of “force,”
but it is “like grace before meat”—without influence on quality or
digestion. Yet this problem must be cleared up before we can arrive at any
understanding of the whole subject. In all attempts at “reducing to
simpler terms,” it must be borne in mind that “force” reveals its nature
in ever higher stages, of which every one is new. Even cohesion cannot be
reduced to terms of gravitation, nor the chemical affinities and molecular
forces to something more primitive. They are already something “outside
the recognised order of nature.” In a still higher form force is expressed
in the processes of crystallisation. At the formation of the first crystal
there came into action a directing force of the same kind as the will of
the sculptor at the making of the Venus of Melos. This new element, which
intervenes every time, Lloyd Morgan regards, with Herbert Spencer
(“Principles of Biology”), as “due to that ultimate reality which
underlies this manifestation, as it underlies all other manifestations.”
There can be no “understanding” in the sense of “getting behind things”:
even the actions of “brute matter” cannot be “understood.” The play of
chance not only does not explain the living; it does not even explain the
not-living. But life in particular can neither be brought into the cell
from without, nor be explained as simply “emerging from the co-operation
of the components of the protoplasm,” and it is “in its essence not to be
conceived in physico-chemical terms,” but represents “new modes of
activity in the noumenal cause,” which, just because it is noumenal, is
beyond our grasp. For only phenomena are “accessible to thought.”

Among the biologists who concern themselves with deeper considerations,
Oscar Hertwig,(95) the Director of the Anatomical Institute at Berlin, has
expressed ideas similar to those we have been discussing, little as this
may seem to be the case at first sight. He desires to oust the ordinary
mechanism, so to speak, by replacing it by a mechanism of a higher order,
and in making the attempt he examines and deepens the traditional ideas of
causality and “force,” and defines the right and wrong of the
quantitative-mathematical interpretation of nature in general, and of
mechanics in particular. He follows confessedly in Lotze’s path, not so
much in regard to that thinker’s insistence upon the association of the
causal and the teleological modes of interpretation, as in modifying the
idea of causality. O. Hertwig puts forward his own theories with special
reference to those of W. Roux, the founder of the new “Science of the
Future”—the mechanical, and therefore only scientific theory of
development, which no longer only describes, but understands and causally
explains phenomena (“Archiv für Entwicklungsmechanik”). There are two
kinds of mechanism (Hertwig says): that in the higher philosophical sense,
and that in the purely physical sense. The former declares that all
phenomena are connected by a guiding thread of causal connection and can
be causally explained. As such, its application to the domain of vital
phenomena is justifiable and self-evident. But it is not justifiable if
cause be simply made identical with and limited to “force,” if the causal
connection be only admitted in the technical sense of the transference and
transformation of energy, and if, over and above, it is supposed to give
an “explanation,” in the sense of an insight into things themselves. Even
mechanics is (as Kirchoff maintained) a “descriptive” science. Hertwig
agrees with Schopenhauer and Lotze in regarding every primitive natural
“force” as unique, not reducible to simpler terms, but qualitatively
distinct,—a “qualitas occulta,” capable not of physical but only of
metaphysical explanation. And thus his conclusions imply rejection of
mechanism in the cruder sense. As such, it has only a very limited sphere
of action in the realm of the living. The history of mechanical
interpretations is a history of their collapse. The attempt to derive the
organic from the inorganic has often been made. But no such attempts have
held the field for long. We can now say with some reason that “the gulf
between the two kingdoms of nature has become deeper just in proportion as
our physical and chemical, our morphological and physiological knowledge
of the organism has deepened.” Mach’s expression “mechanical mythology,”
is quoted, and then a fine passage on the insufficiency of the
mathematical view of things in general concludes thus: “Mathematics is
only a method of thought, an excellent tool of the human mind, but it is
very far from being the case that all thought and knowledge moves in this
one direction, and that the content of our minds can ever find exhaustive
expression through it alone.”

In his “Theory of Dominants,”(96) Reinke, the botanist of Kiel, has
attempted to formulate his opposition to the physico-chemical conception
of life into a vitalistic theory of his own. Among biologists who confess
themselves supporters of the mechanical theory, there are some who
expressly reject explanations in terms of chemical and physical
principles, and emphasise, more energetically than others, that these can
only give rise to vital phenomena and complex processes of movement, on
the basis of a most delicately differentiated structure and architecture
of the living substance in its minute details, and from the egg onwards.
They have created the strict “machine theory,” and they may be grouped
together as the “tectonists.” “A watch that has been stamped to pieces is
no longer a watch.” Thus the merely material and chemical is not the
essential part of the living; it is the tectonic, the machinery of
structure that is essential. The fundamental idea in this position is
precisely that of Lotze. It is not a “mystical,” vital principle, that
sets up, controls, and regulates the physical and chemical processes
within the developed or developing organism. They receive their direction
and impulse through the fact that they are associated with a given
peculiar mechanical structure. This theory certainly contains all the
monstrosities of preformation in the germ, the mythologies of the
infinitely small, and it suffers shipwreck in ways as diverse as the
number of its sides and parts. But it has the merit of clearly disclosing
the impossibilities of purely chemical explanations. Reinke’s “Theory of
Dominants” started from such tectonic conceptions, and so originally did
Driesch’s Neovitalism, of which we shall presently have to speak.

Reinke’s theory has gone through several stages of development. At first
its general tenor was as follows: Every living thing is typically
different from everything that is not living. What explains this
difference? Certainly not the hypothesis of vital force, which is far from
being clear. The idea that forces of a psychic nature are inherent in the
organism is also rejected. The illustration of a watch helps us to
understand. The impelling force in it is certainly not merely the ordinary
force of gravity or the general elasticity of steel. The efficacy of
simple forces such as these can be increased in infinite diversity by the
“construction of the apparatus” in which they operate. Life is the
function of a quite unique, marvellously complex, inimitable combination
of machines. If these be given, the most complex processes fulfil
themselves of necessity and without the intervention of special vital
forces. But how can they be “given”? The sole analogy to be found is the
making of real machines, artificial products as distinguished from
fortuitous products. They cannot be made without the influence and
activity of intelligence. To explain the incomparably more ingenious and
complex vital machine as due to a fortuitous origin and collocation of its
individual parts would be more absurd than it would be to think of a watch
being made in this way. The dominance of a creative idea cannot but be
recognised. An intelligent natural force which is conscious of its aims
and calculates its means must be presupposed, if we are really to satisfy
our sense of causality. It is a matter of personal conviction whether we
find this force in “God” or in the “Absolute.”

These views are more fully developed in the theory of dominants expounded
in Reinke’s later work, “Die Welt as Tat” (after what has been said the
meaning of the title will be self-evident), and in his “Theoretische
Biologie.”(97) Very vigorous and convincing are the author’s objections to
the naturalistic theories of organic life, especially to the “self-origin”
of the living, or spontaneous generation. In all vital processes we must
reckon with a “physiological _x_,” which cannot be eliminated, which gives
to life its unique and underivable character. There are “secondary
forces,” “superforces,” “dominants,” which bring about what is peculiar in
vital functions and direct their processes. “Vitalism” in the strict sense
is thus here also rejected. The machine-theory is held valid. There are
“dominants” even in our tools and utensils, in our hammer and spoon, and
the “operation” of these cannot be explained merely physico-chemically,
but through the dominants of the form, structure and composition, with
which they have been invested by intelligence. The association with the
views of the tectonists is so far quite apparent. But the idea of
“dominants” soon broadens out. We find dominants of form-development, of
evolution, and so on. What were at first only peculiarities of structure
and architecture have grown almost unawares into dynamic principles of
form which have nothing more to do with the mechanical theory, and which,
because of their dualistic nature, result in conclusions and modes of
explanation which can hardly be called very useful. The lines along which
the idea has developed are intelligible enough. It started originally from
that of the organism as a finished product, functioning actively,
especially in its metabolism. Here the comparison with a steam engine with
self-regulators and automatic whistles is admissible, and one may speak of
dominants in the sense of mechanical dominants. But the idea thus started
was pressed into general service. And thus arose dominants of development,
of morphogenesis, even of phylogenetic evolution (“phylogenetic
evolution-potential”). New dominants are added, and the theory advances
farther and farther from the “machine theory,” becomes ever more
enigmatical, and more vitalistic.

The Constructive Work of Driesch.

What in Reinke’s case came about almost unperceived, Driesch did with full
consciousness and intention, following the necessity laid upon him by his
own gradual personal development and by his consistent, tenacious
prosecution of the problem. The acuteness of his thinking, the
concentration of his endeavours through long years, his comprehensive
knowledge and mastery of the material, the deep logicalness and consistent
evolution of his “standpoints,” and his philosophical and theoretical
grasp of the subject make him probably the most instructive type, indeed,
we may almost say, the very incarnation of the whole disputed question. In
1891 he published his “Mathematisch—mechanische Betrachtung
morphologischer Probleme der Biologie,” the work in which he first touched
the depths of the problem. It is directed chiefly against the merely
“historical” methods in biology, used by the current schools in the form
of Darwinism. Darwinism and the Theory of Descent have been so far nothing
more than “galleries of ancestors,” and the science ranged under their
banner is only descriptive, not explanatory. Instead of setting up
contingent theories we must form a “conception” of the internal necessity,
inherent in the substratum itself, in accordance with which the forms of
life have found expression—a necessity corresponding to that which
conditions the form-development of the crystal.

Experimental investigations and discoveries, and further reflection,
resulted, in 1892, in his “Entwicklungsmechanische Studien,” and led him
to insist on the need for what the title of his next year’s work calls
“Biologie als selbständige Grundwissenschaft.” In this work two important
points are emphasised. The first is, that biology must certainly strive
after precision, but that this precision consists not in subordination to,
but in co-ordination with physics. Biology must rank side by side with
physics as an “independent fundamental science,” and that in the form of
tectonic. And the second point is, that the teleological point of view
must take its place beside the causal. Only by recognising both can
biology become a complete science.

In the “Analytische Theorie der organischen Entwicklung” (1894) Driesch
picks up the thread where he dropped it in the book before, and spins it
farther, “traversing” his previous theoretical and experimental results.
In this work the author still strives to remain within the frame of the
tectonic and machine-theory, but the edges are already showing signs of
giving way. Life, he says, is a mechanism based upon a given structure (it
is however a machine which is constantly modifying and developing itself).
Ontogenesis(98) is a strictly causal nexus, but following “a natural law
the workings of which are entirely enigmatical” (with Wigand). Causality
fulfils itself through “liberations,” that is to say, cause and effect are
not quantitatively equivalent; and all effect is, notwithstanding its
causal conditioning, something absolutely new and not to be calculated
from the cause, so that there can be no question of mechanism in the
strict sense. And the whole is directed by purpose.(99) The vital
processes compel us to admit that it seems “as if intelligence determined
quality and order.” Driesch still tries to reconcile causes and purposes
as different “modes of regarding things,” but this device he afterwards
abandons. We cannot penetrate to the nature of things either by the causal
or by the teleological method. But they are—as Kant maintained—two modes
of looking at things, both of which are postulates of our capacity for
knowing. Each must stand by itself, and neither can have its sequence
disturbed by the interpolation of pieces from the other. In the domain of
the causal there can be no teleological explanation, and conversely; one
might as well seek for an optical explanation of the synthesis of water;
but both are true in their own place. The Madonna della Sedia, looked at
microscopically, is a mass of blots, looked at macroscopically it is a
picture. And it “is” both of these.

Driesch’s conclusions continue to advance, led steadily onwards by his
experimental studies. In the “Maschinentheorie des Lebens,”(100) he
attacks his own earlier theories with praiseworthy determination, and
remorselessly pursues them to the monstrous conclusions to which they
lead, and shows that they necessarily perish because of these. He had
previously declared, at first emphatically, later with hesitation (we have
already seen why), that every single vital process is of a
physico-chemical kind, on the basis of a given “structure” of living
beings. But now he considers the living organism as itself a result of
vital processes—that is, of development. If this also is to be explained
mechanically (as physico-chemical processes based on material structure),
then the ovum must possess _in parvo_ this infinitely fine structure, by
virtue of which it fulfils its own physiological processes of maintenance,
and also becomes the efficient cause of the subsequent development. It
must bear the type of the individual and of the species, as a rudiment (or
primordium) within its own structure. Every specific type must, however,
according to the theory of descent, be derived through an endless process
of evolution, by gradual stages, from some primitive organism. Just as in
the mechanical becoming of the individual organism, so the primitive
protovum must also be extraordinarily intricate and complex in its
organisation if it is to give rise to all the processes of evolution and
development involved in the succeeding ontogenies, phylogenies,
regenerations, and so forth. This is a necessary conclusion if the
machine-theory be correct, and if we refuse to admit that vital phenomena
are governed by specific laws. This consequence is monstrous, and the
theory of the tectonists therefore false. But if it be false, what then?

Driesch answers this question in the books published in subsequent
years.(101) In these he attains his final standpoint, and makes it more
and more secure. The “machine-theory,” and all others like it, are now
definitely abandoned. They represent the uncritical dogmatism of a
materialistic mode of thought, which binds all phenomena to substance, and
refuses to admit any immaterial or dynamic phenomena. The alleged initial
structure is nowhere to be found. The pursuit of things into the most
minute details leads to no indication of it. The chromatin, in which the
most important vital processes have their basis, is very far from having
this machine-like structure; it is homogeneous. The formation of the
skeleton, for instance, of a Plubeus larva is due to migratory
spontaneously moving cells (comparable to the leucocytes of our own body,
whose migrations and activities remind one much more of a social organism
than of a machine). The organism arises, not from mechanical, but from
“harmoniously-equipotential systems”: that is to say, from systems every
element of which has equal functional efficiency; so that each individual
part bears within itself in an equal degree the potentiality of the
whole—an impossibility from the mechanical point of view.

Driesch had given an experimental basis for this theory at an earlier
stage, in his experiments on the initial stages of the development of
sea-urchins, starfishes, zoophytes, and the like. A Planarian worm cut
into pieces developed a new worm of smaller size from each part. A
mutilated Pluteus larva developed a new food-canal, and restored the whole
typical form. His experiment of 1892 went farther still, for he succeeded
in separating the first four segmentation-cells of the sea-urchin’s egg;
and from each cell obtained a developing embryo. These facts, he
maintains, compel us to assume a mode of occurrence which is dynamically
_sui generis_, a “prospective tendency” which is a sub-concept in the
Aristotelian “Dynamis.” And the essential difference between this kind of
operation and a mechanical operation is, that the same typical effect is
always reached, even if the whole normal causal nexus be disturbed. Even
when forced into circuitous paths the embryo advances towards the same
goal. Thus “vitalism,” that is, the independence and autonomy of the vital
processes, is proved. The effect required is attained through “action at a
distance,” a mode of happening which is specifically different from
anything to be found in the inorganic world, and which has its
_directive_, for instance, in the regeneration of lost parts, _not_ in
anything corporeal or substantial, but in the end to be attained.

In his work on “Organic Regulations,” Driesch collects from the most
diverse biological fields more and more astonishing proofs of the activity
of the living as contrasted with physico-chemical phenomena, and of the
marvellous power the organism has to “help itself” and to attain the
typical form and reach the end aimed at, even under the greatest diversity
in the chain of conditions. The material here brought forward is enormous,
and the author’s grasp of it very remarkable; and not the least of the
merits of the book is, that the bewildering wealth and diversity of these
phenomena, which are usually presented to us as isolated and uncoordinated
instances, is here definitely systematised according to their
characteristic peculiarities, and from the point of view of the increasing
distinctness of the “autonomy” of the processes. The system begins with
the active regulatory functions of living matter in the chemistry of
metabolism (see particularly the phenomena of immunisation), and ascends
through different stages up to the regulations of regeneration. There
could be no more impressive way of showing how little life and its
“regulations” can be compared to the “self-regulations” of machines, or to
the restoring of typical states of equilibrium and of form in the physical
and chemical domain, to which the mechanists are fond of referring.

The facts thus empirically brought together are then linked together in a
theory, and considered epistemologically. We may leave out of account all
that is included in the treatment of modern idealism,
immanence-philosophy, and solipsism. All this does not arise directly out
of the vitalistic ideas, though the latter are fitted into an idealistic
framework. Extremely vivid is the excursus on respiration and
assimilation. (All processes of building up and breaking down take place
within the organism under conditions notoriously different from those
obtaining in the laboratory. It is radically impossible to speak of a
living “substance” according to the formula CxHyOz, which assimilates and
disassimilates itself [sibi].) Excellent, too, are Driesch’s remarks on
materialistic elucidations of inheritance and morphogenesis. It is quite
impossible to succeed with epigenetic speculations on a material basis
(_cf._ Haacke). Weismann is so far right, he admits, from his
materialistic premisses when he starts with preformations. But his theory,
and all others of the kind, can do nothing more than make an infinitely
small photograph of the difficulty. They “explain” the processes of
form-development and the regeneration of animals and plants, by
constructing infinitely small animals and plants, which develop their form
and regenerate lost parts. And Driesch holds it to be impossible to
distribute a complicated tectonic among the elements of an equipotential
system. In denying the materialistic theory of development, Driesch again
determinedly “traverses” his own earlier views. He does this, too, when he
now rejects the reconciliation between causality and teleology as
different modes of looking at things. The teleological now seems to him
itself a factor playing a part in the chain of causes, and thus making it
teleological. The key-word of all is to him the “entelechy” of Aristotle.

In his last work on “The Soul,” Driesch follows the impossibilities of the
mechanical theories from the domain of vital processes into that of
behaviour and voluntary actions.

The Views of Albrecht and Schneider.

An outlook and interpretation which Driesch(102) maintained for a while,
but afterwards abandoned, has been developed in an original and peculiar
fashion by Eugen Albrecht, Prosector and Pathologist in Munich.(103) It is
the theory of different ways of looking at things. Albrecht indeed firmly
adheres to the chemical and physical interpretation of vital processes,
regards approximate completeness along these lines as the ideal of
science, and maintains their essential sufficiency. But he holds that the
mechanists have been mistaken and one-sided in that they have upheld this
interpretation and mode of considering things as the sole and the “true”
one. According to our subjective attitude to things and their changes,
they appear to us in quite different series of associations, each of which
forms a complete series in itself, running parallel to the others, but not
intruding to fill up gaps in them. Microscopic and macroscopic study of
things illustrate such separate and complete series. The classical example
for the whole theory is the psycho-physical parallelism. Psychical
phenomena are not “explained” when the correlated line of material changes
and the phenomena of the nervous system have been traced out. Similarly
with the series of “vital” phenomena, “vital” interpretation from the
point of view of the “living organism,” runs parallel to, but distinct
from the chemical and physical analyses of vital processes. But each of
these parallel ways of regarding things is “true.” For the current
separation of the “appearance” and “nature” of things is false, since it
assumes that only one of the possible ways of regarding things, _e.g._,
the mechanical-causal mode of interpretation is essential, and that all
the others deal only with associated appearance.

The idea that only one or two of these series can represent the “true
nature” of the phenomenon “can only be called cheap dogma.” Each series is
complete in itself, and every successive phase follows directly and
without a break from the antecedent one, which alone explains it. In this
lies the relative justification of the ever-recurring reactions to

This theory of Albrecht’s has all the charms and difficulties, or
impossibilities, of parallelistic interpretations in general. Its validity
might be discussed with reference to the particular case of
psycho-physical parallelism.(104)

To make a sound basis for itself it would require first to clear up the
causality problem, and to answer, or at least definitely formulate the
great question whether causing (Bewirkung) is to be replaced by mere
necessary sequence—for this is where it ends. The conclusion which, with
regard to biological methods and ideals, seems to make all concessions to
the purely mechanical mode of interpretation, is not sufficiently obvious
from the premisses. If the vital series be a “real” one, we should expect
that a “vitalistic” mode of interpretation, with methods and aims of its
own, would be required, just as a special science of psychology is
required. The assumption that each series is complete without a break, and
that an all-including analysis of vital processes in terms of mechanical
processes must ultimately be possible, is a _petitio principii_, and
breaks down before the objections raised by the vitalists. The most
central problem in the whole matter, namely, the relation of the causal to
the teleological, has not been touched. These two concepts would, of
course, not yield “parallels,” but would be different points of view,
which could eventually be applied to each series.

K. Camillo Schneider,(105) Privatdozent in Vienna, uses the soul, the
psychical in the true sense, as the explanation of the vital. What had
been thought secretly and individually by some of the vitalists already
mentioned, but had, so to speak, cropped up only as the incidentally
revealed reverse side of their negations of mechanism, Schneider attempts
definitely to formulate into a theory. The chief merit of his book on
“Vitalism” is to be found, in Chapters II. to X., in his thorough
discussion of the chemical, physical, and mechanical theories along the
special lines of each.

The list of critics might be added to, and the number of standpoints in
opposition to mechanism greatly increased. This diversity of standpoint,
and the individual way in which each independent thinker reacts from the
mechanical theory shows that here, as also in regard to Darwin’s theory of
selection, we have to do with a dogmatic theory and a forced
simplification of phenomena, not with an objective and calm consideration
of things as they are. It is a theory where _simplex_ has become _sigillum

How all this affects the Religious Outlook.

These denials and destructive criticisms of the mechanical theory, which
are now continually cropping up, lead, as must be obvious, towards a
deeper conception and interpretation of reality in general, and towards a
religious conception in particular. Unquestionably the most important fact
in connection with them is the fresh revelation of the depth of things and
of appearance, the increased recognition that our knowledge is only
leading us towards mystery.

It is indeed questionable whether anything more than this can be said in
regard to the problem of life, whether we ought not to content ourselves
with recognising the limits of our knowledge, and reject all positive
statements that go beyond these limits. For the mechanists are undoubtedly
right in this, that “entelechy,” “the idea of the whole,” “co-operation,”
“guidance,” “psychical factors,” and the like, are only names for riddles,
and do not in themselves constitute knowledge.(106) The case here is
somewhat similar to what we have already seen in connection with
“antinomies.” They, too, give us no positive insight into the true nature
of things, but they at any rate prove to us that we have not yet
understood what that is. And, just as they show us that our knowledge of
the world as it appears to us can never be complete, so here it appears
that we come upon inexplicabilities even within the domain accessible to
our knowledge. Thus the religious conception of the world gains something
here as from the antinomies, namely, a fresh proof that the world which
appears to us and can be comprehended by us, proclaims its true nature and
depths, but does not reveal them. Perhaps there is still another gain. For
in any case the vital processes and the marvels of evolution and
development are examples of the way in which physical processes are
constantly subject to a peculiar guidance, which certainly cannot be
explained from themselves or in terms of mechanism, organisation, and the
like. All attempts to demonstrate this in detail, all “explanations” in
terms of dynamic co-operation, of dominants, of ideas, or anything else,
are vague, and seem to go to pieces when we try to take firm hold of them.
But the fact remains none the less.

May not this be a paradigm of the processes and development of the world
at large, and even of evolution in the domain of history? Here, too, all
ideas of guidance, of endeavour after an aim, &c., which philosophical
study of history or religious intuition seems to find, make shipwreck
against the fact that every attempt to demonstrate their nature, fails.
All these theories of influx, concursus, and so on, whether transcendental
or immanent factors be employed, immediately become wooden, and never
admit of verification in detail. But precisely the same is true of the
dominance of the “idea,” or of the “law of evolution,” or of the
“potential of development” in every developing organism. Yet
incomprehensible and undemonstrable in detail as this “dominance” is, and
completely as it may be concealed behind the play of physical causes, it
is there, none the less.


The aim of our study has been to define our attitude to naturalism, and to
maintain in the teeth of naturalism the validity and freedom of the
religious conception of the world. This seemed to be cramped and menaced
by those “reductions to simpler terms” which we have already discussed.

But one of these reductions, the most important of all, we have not yet
encountered, and it remains to be dealt with now. In comparison with this
one all others are relatively unimportant, and it is easy to understand
how some have regarded the problem of the relations of the naturalistic
and the religious outlook as beginning at this point, and have neglected
everything below it. For we have now to consider the attempt of naturalism
to “reduce” spirit itself to terms of nature, either to derive it from
nature, or, when that is recognised as quite too confused and impossible,
to make it subject to nature and her system of laws, or to similar laws,
and thus to rob it of its freedom and independence, of its essential
character as above nature and free from it, and to bring it down to the
level of an accompanying shadow or a mere reverse side of nature. The
aggressive naturalism which we have discussed has from very early times
exercised itself on this point, and has instinctively and rightly felt
that herein lies the kernel of the whole problem under dispute. It has for
the most part concentrated its interest and its attacks upon the
“immortality of the soul.” But while this was often the starting-point,
the nature of soul, and spirit, and consciousness in general have been
brought under discussion and subjected to attacks which sought to show how
vague and questionable was the reality of spirit as contrasted with the
palpable, solid and indubitable reality of the outer world. Prominence was
given to the fact that the spiritual side of our nature is dependent on
and conditioned by the body and bodily states, the external environment,
experiences and impressions. These were often the sole, and always the
chief subjects of the doctrine of the vulgar naturalism. But the same is
true of the naturalism of the higher order, as we described it in Chapter
II. In order to acquire definite guiding principles of investigation, it
makes the attempt to find the true reality of phenomena in the mechanical,
corporeal, physiological processes, and to take little or no account of
the co-operation, the interpolation, the general efficiency of sensation,
perception, thought, or will, and to treat them as though they were a
shadow and accompaniment of reality, but not as an equivalent, much less a
preponderating constituent of it. Out of these fundamental principles of
investigation, and out of the opposition and doubt with which the
spiritual is regarded, there is compounded the current mongrel naturalism,
which, without precision in its ideas, and without any great clearness or
logical consequence in its views, is thoroughly imbued with the notion
that that only is truly real which we can see, hear, and touch—the solid
objective world of matter and energy, and that “science” begins and ends
with this. As for anything outside of or beyond this, it is at most a
beautiful dream of fancy, with which it is quite safe to occupy oneself as
long as one clearly understands that of course it is not true. “Nature” is
the only indubitable reality, and mind is but a kind of _lusus_ or _luxus
naturæ_, which accompanies it at some few places, like a peculiarly
coloured aura or shadow, but which must, as far as reality is concerned,
yield pre-eminence to “Nature” in every respect.

The religious conception is deeply and essentially antagonistic to all
such attempts to range spirit, spiritual being, and the subjective world
under “nature,” “matter,” “energy,” or whatever we may call what is
opposed to mind and ranked above it in reality and value. The religious
conception is made up essentially of a belief in spirit, its worth and
pre-eminence. It does not even seek to compare the reality and origin of
spirit with anything else whatever. For all its beliefs, the most sublime
and the crudest alike, conceal within them the conviction that
fundamentally spirit alone has truth and reality, and that everything else
is derived from it. It is a somewhat pitiful mode of procedure to direct
all apologetic endeavours towards the one relatively small question of
“immortality,” thus following exactly the lines usually adopted by the
aggressive exponents of naturalism, and thus allowing opponents to dictate
the form of the questions and answers. It is quite certain that all
religion which is in any way complete, includes within itself a belief in
the everlastingness of our spiritual, personal nature, and its
independence of the becoming or passing away of external things. But, on
the one hand, this particular question can only be settled in connection
with the whole problem, and, on the other hand, it is only a fraction of
the much farther-reaching belief in the reality of spirit and its
superiority to nature. The very being of religion depends upon this. That
it may be able to take itself seriously and regard itself as true; that
all deep and pious feelings, of humility and devotion, may be cherished as
genuine and as founded in truth; that it behoves it to find and experience
the noble and divine in the world’s course, in history and in individual
life; that the whole world of feeling with all its deep stirrings and
mysteries is of all things the most real and true, and the most
significant fact of existence—all these are features apart from which it
is impossible to think of religion at all. But they all depend upon the
reality, independence and absolute pre-eminence of spirit. Freedom and
responsibility, duty, moral control and self-development, the valuation of
life and our life-work according to our life’s mission and ideal aims,
even according to everlasting aims, and “sub specie æterni,” the idea of
the good, the true and the beautiful—all things apart from which religion
cannot be thought of—all these depend upon spirit and its truth. And
finally “God is Spirit”: religion cannot represent, or conceive, or
possess its own highest good and supreme idea, except by thinking in terms
of the highest analogies of what it knows in itself as spiritual being and
reality. If spirit is not real and above all other realities; if it is
derivable, subordinate and dependent, it is impossible to think of
anything whatever to which the name of “God” can be given. And this is as
true of the refined speculations of the pantheistic poetic religions, as
of the idea of God in simple piety. The interest of religion as against
the claims of naturalism includes all this. And it would be doing the
cause of religion sorry service to extract from this whole some isolated
question to which the mood of the time or traditional custom has given
prominence. Our task must be to show that religion maintains its validity
and freedom because of the truth and independence of spirit and its
superiority to nature.

It is, of course, impossible to give an exhaustive treatment of this
problem in a short study like this. The answer to this question would
include the whole range of mental science with all its parts and branches.
Mental science, from logic and epistemology up to and including the moral
and æsthetic sciences, proves by its very existence, and by the fact that
it cannot be reduced to terms of natural science, that spirit can neither
be derived from nor analysed into anything else. And it is only when we
have mastered all this that we can say how far and how strongly knowledge
and known realities corroborate religion and its great conclusions as to
spirit and spiritual existence, how they reinforce it and admit its
validity and freedom. Since this is so, all isolated and particular
endeavours in this direction can only be a prelude or introduction, and a
more or less arbitrary selection from the relevant material of facts and
ideas. And nothing more than this is aimed at in the following pages.

Naturalistic Attacks on the Autonomy of the Spiritual.

The attacks that have been made by naturalism upon the independence and
freedom of the spiritual are so familiar to every one—even from school
days—through books of the type of Büchner’s “Kraft und Stoff,” and
Haeckel’s “The Riddle of the Universe,” and other half or wholly
materialistic popular dogmatics, that it is unnecessary to enter into any
detail. Very little that is new has been added in this connection to the
attack made by Plato on himself in the “Phædo” through Simmias and Kebes.
It is only apparently that the modern attacks have become more serious
through the deepened knowledge of natural science. At all times they have
been as serious and as significant as possible, and the religious and
every other idealistic conception of the universe has always suffered from
them. It is plain that here, if anywhere, “faith goes against
appearances,” and that in the last resource we have to postulate free
moral resolution, the will to believe, the desire for the ideal, for
freedom, and for the eternity of the spirit, and the confidence of the
spirit in itself. All this is, or at least ought to be, self-evident and
generally admitted.

Let us once more take a brief survey of the reasons on the other side and
arrange them in order.

That nature is everything and spirit very little seems to follow from a
very simple circumstance. There are whole worlds of purely natural and
corporeal existence without mind, sensation, or consciousness, which,
quite untroubled by their absence, simply exist according to the
everlasting laws of matter and energy. But nowhere do we find spirit or
mind without a material basis. All that is psychical occurs in connection
with a physical being, and with relatively few physical beings. Spirit
seems wholly bound up with and dependent upon the states, development, and
conditions of material being. With the body of living beings there arises
what we call “soul”; with the body it grows, gains content, changes,
matures, ages, and disappears. According as the body is constituted and
composed, as it is influenced by heredity, race, and selection, by
nutrition, mode of life, climate, and other circumstances, there are
developed in a hundred different ways what we call the natural disposition
or character, inclinations, virtues or vices, passions or temperaments.
Even the names given to the different temperaments emphasise this
dependence of what is innermost in us, the deepest tendencies of our
being, on the bodily organisation and the nature of its physiological
constitution. The man whose blood flows easily and freely is called
sanguine, and the melancholic is the victim of his liver. According as our
organs are good or bad, function freely or sluggishly, our mood rises or
sinks, we are bold or cowardly, languid or impetuous, and enthusiasm is
often enough only a peculiar name for a state which, physiologically
expressed, might be called alcoholic poisoning. There is one soul in the
sound body, another in the sickly. Fever, and the impotence of the soul
against it, made Holbach a materialist. If the brain be diseased, that
marvellous order of psychical processes which we call reasoning is broken;
the “soul” is wholly or partly eliminated; it fades away, or becomes
nothing more than a confused disconnected medley of images and desires.
Even artificial interference with, and changes in the bodily organisation
react upon the mind. The removal of the thyroid gland may result in
idiocy. Castration not only prevents the “breaking” of the voice in the
Sistine choristers, it damps the fires of life to dulness, and makes of
the impetuous Abelard a comfortable discursive father-confessor. The mind
is bound up almost piece by piece with its material basis. Through the
“localisation” of psychic processes in the particular parts of the brain,
naturalism has enormously strengthened the impression that existed even
among the ancients, that sensation and imagination are nothing more than,
let us say, what the note is to a tightly stretched string. Cerebrum and
cerebellum are regarded as the seats of different psychic processes. The
secret of the higher processes is believed to be hidden in the grey matter
of the cortex of the cerebrum. We seek and find in the various lobes and
convolutions of the brain the “centres” for the different capacities, the
power of sight, of smell, of moving the arms, of moving the legs, of
associating ideas, of co-ordinated speech, and so on. When brain and
spinal cord are injured or removed piece by piece from a pigeon or a frog,
it seems as if the “soul” were eliminated piece by piece,—the capacity for
spontaneous free co-ordination, for voluntary action, for the various
sense-impressions, and so on from the higher to the lower. It has even
been maintained that the different feelings and perceptions which are
gradually acquired can be apportioned among the individual cells of the
brain in which they are localised, and the thought-processes, the
associations of percepts, the origin of consecutive ideas, the rapid and
easy recalling of memory-images, and the process of voluntary control, of
instincts, can be explained as due to the “gradual laying down of
nerve-paths” between the different centres and areas of localisation in
the brain. All this seems to refute utterly the old belief in the unity
and personality of the soul. It is different in youth and in age, and
indeed varies continually. It is the ever-varied harmony of the notes of
all the strings which are represented by the fibres and ganglion-cells of
the nerve-substance. It apparently can not only be completely confused and
brought to disharmony, but it may be halved and divided. An almost
terrifying impression was produced when Trembley in 1740 made the
experiment of cutting a “hydra” in two, and showed that each of the halves
became a complete animal, so that obviously each of the two halves of the
soul grew into a new hydra-soul. And Trembley’s hydra was only the
precursor of all the cut-up worms, of the frogs, birds, and guinea-pigs
that have been beheaded, or have had their brain removed, or their nerves
cut, and have furnished further examples of this divisibility of “souls.”

If the independence of the spiritual is thus shown to be a vain
assumption, the alleged difference between the animal and the human Psyche
is much more so. Not from the days of Darwinism alone, but from the very
beginning, naturalism has opposed this claim to distinctiveness. But it is
due to Darwinism that the fundamental similarity of the psychical in man
and animals has come to be regarded as almost self-evident. The mental
organisation of man, as well as his corporeal organisation, is traced back
through gradual stages to animal antecedents, and in thus tracing it there
are two favourite methods of procedure, which are, however, apt to be
mutually destructive.

On the one hand, some naturalists regard the animal anthropomorphically,
insist on its likeness to man, discovering and extolling, not without
emotion, all the higher and nobler possessions of the human mind,
intellectual capacities, reason, reflection, synthesis, fancy, the power
of forming ideas and judgments, of drawing conclusions and learning from
experience, besides will in the true sense, ethical, social and political
capacities, æsthetic perceptions, and even fits of religion in elephants,
apes, dogs, down even to ants and bees, and these naturalists reject
old-fashioned explanations in terms of instinct, and find the highest
already contained in the lowest. Those of another school are inclined to
regard man theriomorphically, to insist on his likeness to animals,
explaining reason in terms of perception and sensation, deriving will from
impulse and desire, and ethical and æsthetic valuations from physiological
antecedents and purely animal psychological processes, thus, in short,
seeking to find the lowest in the highest. (We have already met with an
analogous instance of a similarly fallacious double-play on parallel
lines.) So it comes about that both the origin and the development of the
psychical and spiritual seem to be satisfactorily cleared up and
explained, and at the same time a new proof is adduced for its dependence
upon the physical. For what is true of all other parts of the
organisation, of the building up and perfecting of every member and every
system of organs, the bony skeleton, the circulatory system, the
alimentary canal, that they can be referred back to very simple
beginnings, and that their evolution may be traced through all its
stages—is equally true of the nervous system in general and of the brain
in particular. It increases more and more in volume and in intricacy of
structure, it expands the cranial cavity and diversifies its convolutions.
And the more it grows, and the more complex it becomes, the more do the
mental capacities increase in perfection, so that here again it seems once
more apparent that the psychical is an accompaniment and result of the

Popular naturalism usually stops short here, and contents itself with
half-truths and inconsequences, for it naïvely admits that psychical
processes, sensation, perception, will, have a real influence upon the
physical, and, not perceiving how much the admission involves, it does not
trouble itself over the fact that, for instance in the so-called voluntary
movements of the body, in ordinary behaviour, the psychical, and the will,
in particular, is capable of real effect, and can move hand and foot and
the whole body, and thus has a real reciprocal relation with the physical.
This form of popular naturalism sometimes amuses itself with assuming a
psychical inwardness even in non-living matter, and admitting the
co-operation of psychical motives even in regard to it.

But it is far otherwise with naturalism in the strict sense, which takes
its fundamental principles and its method of investigation seriously. It
is aware that such half-and-half measures interrupt the continuity of the
system at the most decisive point. And therefore with the greatest
determination it repeats along psychological lines the same kind of
treatment that it has previously sought to apply to biological phenomena:
the corporeal must form a sequence of phenomena complete in itself and not
broken into from without. All processes of movement, all that looks as if
it happened “through our will,” through a resolve due to the intervention
of a psychical motive, every flush of shame that reddens the cheek, every
stroke executed by the hand, every sound-wave caused by tongue and lips,
must be the result of conditions of stimulation and tension in the energy
of the body itself.

This is the meaning of all those psycho-physical experiments that have
been carried on with so much ingenuity and persistence (usually associated
with attempts to explain vital phenomena in terms of mechanism). First,
they attempt to interpret the expressions of will, feeling and need, the
spontaneous activities and movements of the lowest forms of
life—protists—as “pure reflexes,” as processes which take place in
obedience to stimuli, and thus are ultimately due to chemical and physical
influences and causes without the intervention of a psychical motive; and,
secondly, when this has been apparently or really achieved, the theory of
irritability and reflex mechanism is pushed from below upwards, until even
the most intricate and complex movements and operations of our own body,
which we have wrongly distinguished as acts or behaviour from mere
processes of stimulation, are finally recognised as reflexes and
liberations due to stimuli. Some stimulus or other, from light or sound or
something else, is, according to this theory, conducted to the nervous
centre, the ganglion, the spinal cord, the cerebellum or the cerebrum.
Here it produces an effect, not of a psychical nature, but some minute
chemical, or physical,—or purely mechanical change, which goes through
many permutations within the nervous centre itself, unites there with the
stored energies, and then, thus altered, returns by the efferent nerve
paths to effect a muscle-contraction in some organ, a stretching of the
hand, or a movement of the whole body. The physical process is accompanied
by a peculiar inward mirroring, which is the psychical penumbra or shadow
of the whole business. Thus what is in reality a purely mechanical and
reflex sequence appears like a psychical experience, like choice and will
and psychical causality. We may be compared to Spinoza’s stone; it was
thrown, and it thought it was flying.

The reasons for interpreting things in this way lie in the principles of
investigation. It is only in this way, we are told, that nature can be
reduced to natural terms, that is, to chemistry, physics, and mechanics.
Only in this way is it possible to gain a true insight into and
understanding of things, and to bring them under mathematical formulæ.
Thus only, too, can “the miraculous” be eliminated. For if we are obliged
to admit that the will has a real influence on the corporeal, for instance
upon our brain, and nerves, and arm-muscles, this would be a violation of
the law of the constancy of the sum of energy. For in this case there
would occur, at a certain point in the nexus of phenomena, a piece of work
done, however small it might be, for which there was no equivalent of
energy in the previous constitution. But this is, since the days of
Helmholtz, an impossible assumption. And thus all those experiments and
theories on what we have called the “second line” of mechanistic
interpretation of the universe show themselves to be relevant to our
present subject.

Interpretations of the psychical such as these have given rise to four
peculiar “isms” of an epistemological nature, _i.e._, related to a theory
of knowledge. Not infrequently they are the historical antecedents which
result in the naturalistic theory of the psychical. These are nominalism
and sensualism, empiricism and a-posteriorism, which, setting themselves
against epistemological rationalism, assail the dignity, the independence,
and the autonomy of the thinking mind. They are so necessarily and closely
associated with naturalism that their fate is intimately bound up with its
fate, and they are corroborated or refuted with it. And it would be
possible to conduct the whole discussion with which we are concerned
purely with reference to these four “isms.” The strife really begins in
their camp.

The soul is a _tabula rasa_, all four maintain, a white paper on which, to
begin with, nothing is inscribed. It brings with it neither innate
knowledge nor commands. What it possesses in the way of percepts,
concepts, opinions, convictions, principles of action, rules of conduct,
are inscribed upon it through experience (empiricism). That is, not
antecedent to, but subsequent to experience (a posteriori). But experience
can only be gained through the senses. Only thus does reality penetrate
into and stamp itself upon us. “What was not first in the senses (sensus)
cannot be in the intelligence.” What the senses convey to us alone builds
up our mental content, from mere sensory perceptions upwards to the most
abstract ideas from the simplest psychical elements up to the most complex
ideas, concepts, and conclusions, to the most varied imaginative
constructions. And in the development of the mental content the “soul”
itself is merely the stage upon which all that is acquired through the
senses crowds, and jostles, and unites to form images, perceptions, and
precepts. But it is itself purely passive, and it becomes what happens to
it. Therefore it is not really spirit at all, for spirit implies
spontaneity, activity, and autonomy.

Philosophy and the mental sciences have always had to carry on the strife
with these four opponents. And it is in the teacup of logic and
epistemology that the storm in regard to theories of the universe has
arisen. It is there, and not in the domain of neurology, or zoology, that
the real battlefield lies, upon which the controversy must be fought out
to the end. What follows is only a sort of skirmish about the outposts.

What naturalism holds in regard to the psychical and spiritual may be,
perhaps, most simply expressed by means of an illustration. Over a wide
field there glide mighty shadows in constant interplay. They expand and
contract, become denser or lighter, disappear for a little, and then
reveal themselves again. While they are thus forming and changing, one
state follows quite connectedly on another. At first one is tempted to
believe that they are self-acting and self-regulating, that they move
freely and pass from one state to another according to causes within
themselves. But then one sees that they are thrown upon the earth from the
clouds above, now in this way and now in that, that all their states and
forms and changes are nothing in themselves, and neither effect anything
in themselves nor react upon the occurrences and realities up above, which
they only accompany, and by which they are determined without any
co-operation on their own part, even in determining their own form. So it
is with nature and spirit. Nature is the true effective reality; spirit is
its shadow, which effects nothing either within or outside of itself, but
simply happens.

The Fundamental Answer.

How can the religious conception of the world justify itself and maintain
its freedom in face of such views of spirit and spiritual being? It is
questionable whether it is worth while attempting to do so. Is not the
essence of the validity and freedom of spirit made most certain simply
through the fact that it is able to inquire into it? If we leave popular
naturalism out of the question, is not the attempt made by scientific
naturalism the best witness against itself? For scientific study, and the
establishment of fundamental conceptions and guiding principles are only
possible if mind and thought are free and active and creative. The direct
experience that spirit has of itself, of its individuality and freedom, of
its incomparability with all that is beneath it, is far too constant and
genuine to admit of its being put into a difficulty by a doctrine which it
has itself established. And this doctrine has far too much the character
of a “fixed theory” to carry permanent inward conviction with it. Here
again, the mistake made is in starting with scepticism and with the fewest
and simplest assumptions. It is by no means the case that in order to
discover the truth we must start always from a position of scepticism,
instead of from calm confidence in ourselves and in our conviction that we
possess in direct experience the best guarantee of truth. For we
experience nothing more certainly than the content and riches of our own
mind, its power of acting and creating, and all its great capacities. And
it is part of the duty laid upon us by the religious conception of the
universe, as well as by all other idealistic conceptions, to follow this
path of self-assurance alone, that is, through self-development and
self-deepening, through self-realisation and self-discipline, to use to
the full in our lives all that we have in heart and mind as possibilities,
tendencies, content, and capacities, and so practically to experience the
reality and power of the spiritual that the mood of suspicion and distrust
of it must disappear. The validity of this method is corroborated by all
the critical insight into the nature of our knowledge that we have gained
in the course of our study, and it might be deepened in regard to this
particular case. For here, if anywhere, we must recognise the limitations
of our knowledge; the impossibility of attaining to a full understanding
of the true nature and depths of things applies to the inquiring mind and
its hidden nature. From Descartes to Leibnitz, Kant, and Fries, down to
the historian of materialism itself, F. A. Lange, it has been an axiom of
the idealistic philosophy, expressed now in dogmatic, now in critical
form, that the mathematical-mechanical outlook and causal interpretation
of things, not excluding a naturalistic psychology, is thoroughly
justifiable as a method of arranging scientifically the phenomena
accessible to us and of penetrating more deeply towards an understanding
of these. It is, indeed, justifiable, so long as it does not profess to
reveal the true nature of things, but remains conscious of the free
spirit, whose own work and undertaking the whole is.

Yet here again it is by no means necessary to surrender to naturalism a
field which it has tried to take possession of, but is certainly unable to
hold. We need not try to force naturalism to read out of empirical
psychology the high conclusions as to human nature and spirit which
pertain to the religious outlook, or to find in the “simplicity” of the
“soul monad” a kind of physical proof of its indestructibility, or
anything of that kind. We maintain that to comprehend the true inwardness
of the vitality, freedom, dignity, and power of the spirit is not the
business of psychology at all, but may perhaps be dealt with in ethics, if
it be not admitted that with these concepts one has already entered the
realm of religious experience, and that they are the very centre of
religious theory. But undoubtedly we must reject in great measure the
claims which naturalism makes upon our domain, and maintain that the most
important starting-points for the higher view are to be found in the
priority of everything spiritual over everything material, in the
underivability of the spiritual and the impossibility of describing it in
corporeal-mathematical terms and concepts.

Individual Development.

What lives in us, as far as we can perceive and trace it in its empirical
expression, is not a finished and spiritual being that leaps, mature and
complete, from some pre-existence or other into its embodied form, but is
obviously something that only develops and becomes actual very gradually.
Its becoming is conditioned by “stimuli,” influences, impressions from
without, and perfects itself in the closest dependence upon the becoming
of the body, is inhibited or advanced with it, and may be entirely
arrested by it, forced into abnormal developments which never attain to
the level of an “ego” or “personality,” but remain incomprehensible
anomalies and monstrosities. In general, the psychical struggles slowly
and laboriously free from purely vegetative and physiological processes,
and gains control over itself and over the body. Its self-development and
concentration to full unity and completeness of personality is only
achieved through the deepest self-culture, through complete
“simplification” as the ancients said, through great acts and experiences
of inward centralisation such as that which finds religious expression in
the metaphor of “regeneration.” What “building up” and self-development of
the psychical means remains obscure. If we think of it as a summation, an
adding on of new parts and constituents, and thus try to form a concrete
image of the process, we spoil it altogether. If we speak of the
transition from the potential to the actual, from the tendency to the
realisation, we may not indeed spoil it, but we have done little to make
the process more intelligible. So much only we can say: certain as it is
that the Psyche, especially as conscious inner life, only gradually
develops and becomes actual, and that in the closest dependence upon the
development, maturing, and establishment of the nervous basis and the
bodily organisation in general, yet the naturalistic view, _a fortiori_
the materialistic, is never at any point correct. There are three things
to be borne in mind. First, the origin, the “whence” of the psychical is
wholly hidden from us, and, notwithstanding the theory of evolution and
descent, it remains an insoluble riddle. And secondly, however closely it
is associated with and tied down to the processes of bodily development,
it is never at any stage of its development really a function of it in
actual and exact correspondence and dependence. And finally, the further
it advances in its self-realisation, the further the relation of
dependence recedes into the background, and the more do the independence
and autonomy of the psychical processes become prominent.

We have still to consider and amplify this in several respects, and then
we may go on to still more important matters.


The first of the three points we have called attention to has, so to
speak, become famous through the lectures of du Bois-Reymond, which
attracted much attention, on “The Limits of Natural Knowledge,” and “The
Seven Riddles of the Universe.” That these thoughtful lectures made so
great an impression did not mean that a great new discovery had been made,
but was rather a sign of the general lack of reflection on the part of the
public, for they only expressed what had always been self-evident, and
what had only been forgotten through thoughtlessness, or concealed by
polemical rhetoric. Consciousness, thought, even the commonest sensation
of pleasure and pain, or the simplest sense-perception, cannot be compared
with “matter and energy,” with the movements of masses. They represent a
foreign and altogether inexplicable guest in this world of matter,
molecules, and elements. Even if we could follow the play of the nervous
processes with which sensation, consciousness, pain, or pleasure are bound
up, into their most intricate and delicate details, if we could make the
brain transparent, and enlarge its cells to the size of houses, so that,
with searching glance, we could count and observe all the processes, and
even follow the dance of the molecules within it, we should never see
“pain,” “pleasure,” or “thought,” or anything more than bodies and their
movements. A thought, such as, for instance, the perception that two and
two make four, is not long or broad, above or beneath; it cannot be
measured or weighed in inches or pounds like matter, tested with the
manometer, thermometer, or electrometer for its potential or intensity and
tension, measured by ampères or volts or horse-powers like energies and
electric currents; it is something wholly different, which can be known
only through inner experience, but which is much better known than
anything else whatever, and which it is absolutely impossible to compare
with anything but itself. Even if we admit that it can only become actual
and develop as an accompaniment of processes within bodies, and only
within those bodies we call “living,” and that wherever bodies exist
psychical phenomena occur; even if we were able, as we never shall be
able, to produce living beings artificially in a retort, and even if
psychical phenomena occurred in these also, we should still have made no
progress towards explaining what the psychical really is. It would still
only be the blazing up in these bodies of a flame which, in some
inexplicable way, had fallen upon them, and associated itself with them.
We do not doubt that this association, where it takes place, does so in
obedience to the strictest law and the most inexorable necessity;
therefore, that wherever and however the corporeal conditions are
produced, sensation and consciousness will awaken. For we believe in a
world governed by law. But the mystery is in no way lessened by this, and
the modern theory of evolution throws no light into this utterly
impenetrable darkness. In the first place, the whole idea of “explaining”
in terms of “evolution” is a futile one. The process of becoming is
pictured as a simple process of cumulation, a gradual increase of
intensities, while the business is really one of change in quality and the
introduction of what is new. In the second place, the occurrence even of
the first and most primitive sensation contains the whole riddle
concentrated on a single point. In the third place, the riddle meets us
anew and undiminished in every developing individual. For to say that the
physical inwardness, once it has arisen, is “transmitted,” is not an
explanation but merely an admission that the riddle exists. And the idea
that the psychical is just a penumbra or shadow of reality, which comes of
itself and so to speak gratis, is quite inadmissible from the point of
view of strict natural science. There are no longer _luxus_ and _lusus
naturæ_. Reality cannot throw a “shadow.” According to the principles of
the conservation of matter and energy, we must be able to show whence it
gets the so-called shadow, and with what it compensates for it.

Pre-eminence of Consciousness.

But we have already spent too much time over this naïve mode of looking at
things, which, though it professes to place things in their true light, in
reality distorts them and turns them upside down. As if this world of the
external and material, all these bodies and forces, were our first and
most direct data, and were not really all derived from, and only
discoverable by, consciousness. We have here to do with the ancient view
of all philosophy and all reflection in general, although in modern days
it has taken its place as a great new discovery even among naturalists
themselves, by whom it is extolled and recognised as “the conquest of
materialism.” Such exaggerated emphasis tends to conceal the fact that
this truth has been regarded as self-evident from very early times.

What is a body, extension, movement, colour, smell and taste? What do I
possess of them, or know of them, except through the images, sensations
and feelings which they call up in my receptive mind? No single thing
wanders into me as itself, or reveals itself to me directly; only through
the way in which they affect me, the peculiar changes which they work in
me, do things reveal to me their existence and their special character. I
have no knowledge of an apple-tree or of an apple, except through the
sense perceptions they call up in me. But these sense perceptions, what
are they but different peculiar states of my consciousness, peculiar
determinations of my mind? I see that the tree stands there, but what is
it to see? What is the perception of a colour, of light, of shade, and
their changes? Surely only a peculiar change of my mind itself, a
particular state of stimulus and awareness brought about in myself. And in
the same way I can feel that the apple lies there. But what is the
perception of resistance, of hardness, of impenetrability? Nothing more
than a feeling, a change in my psychical state, which is unique and cannot
be described in terms of anything but itself. Even as regards “attraction
and repulsion,” external existence only reveals itself to us through
changes in the mind and consciousness, which we then attribute to a cause
outside ourselves.

It is well enough known that this simple but incontrovertible fact has
often led to the denial of the existence of anything outside of ourselves
and our consciousness. But even if we leave this difficult subject alone,
it is quite certain that, if the question as to the pre-eminence of
consciousness and its relation to external things is to be asked at all,
it should be formulated as follows, and not conversely: “How can I,
starting from the directly given reality and certainty of consciousness
and its states, arrive at the certainty and reality of external things,
substances, forces, physics and chemistry?”

Creative Power of Consciousness.

To this insight into the underivability and pre-eminence of consciousness
over the world of external reality there must be added at this stage a
recognition of its peculiar creative character. We have here to recognise
that consciousness itself creates its world,—that is, the world that
becomes our own through actual experience, possession, and enjoyment. We
are led to this position even by the conception now current in natural
science of the world as it is, not as it is mirrored in consciousness, and
the theory of the “subjectivity of sensory qualities.” The qualities which
we perceive in things through the senses are “subjective”; philosophy has
long taught that, and now natural science teaches it too. That is to say,
these qualities are not actually present in the things themselves; they
are rather the particular responses which our consciousness makes to
stimuli. Take, for instance, tone or colour. What we call tone or sound is
not known to acoustics. That takes cognisance only of vibrations and the
conditions of vibration in elastic bodies, which, by means of the ear and
the nerves of hearing, become a stimulus of consciousness. Consciousness
“responds” to this stimulus by receiving a sense-impression of hearing.
But in this, obviously, there is nothing of the nature of oscillations and
vibrations, but something quite different. What outside of us is nothing
more than a complex process of movement according to mathematical
conditions, blossoms within us to a world of sound, tone, and music. The
world itself is soundless, toneless. And the same is true of light and
colour; “light” and “blue” are nothing in themselves—are not properties of
things themselves. They are only the infinitely rapid movements of an
infinitely delicate substance, the ether. But when these meet our
consciousness, they spin themselves within us into this world of light and
colour, of brilliance and beauty. Thus without us there is a world of a
purely mathematical nature, without quality, charm, or value. But the
world we know, the world of sound, light, and colour, of all properties
whatsoever, of the ugly or the beautiful, of pain and pleasure, is in the
most real sense the product of consciousness itself, a creation which,
incited by something outside of itself and of a totally different nature,
which we can hardly call “world,” evolves out of itself and causes to
blossom. No part of this creation is given from without; not the blue of
the heavens, for outside of us there is no colour, only vibrations of the
ether; not the gold of the sun nor the red glory of the evening sky.
External nature is nothing more than the stimulus, the pressure upon the
mind, which liberates from its depths the peculiar reactions and responses
to this stimulus, and calls them forth from its own treasure-stores.
Certainly in this creating the consciousness is entirely dependent on the
impressions stamped on it from outside, and to that extent upon
“experience.” But it is by no means a _tabula rasa_, and a merely passive
mirror of the outer world, for it translates the stimulus thus received
into quite a different language, and builds up from it a new reality,
which is quite unlike the mathematical and qualityless reality without.
And this activity on the part of consciousness begins on the very lowest
stages. The simplest perception of light or colour, the first feeling of
pleasure or discomfort, is a reaction of the psychical, which brings about
something entirely new and unique. “The spirit is never passive.”

That the psychical is not derivable from the physical, that it does not
arise out of it, is not secondary to it, but pre-eminent over it, is not
passive but creative; so much we have already gained to set over against
naturalism. But its claims are even more affected by the fact of real
psychical causality. We need not here concern ourselves with the difficult
question, whether the mind can of itself act upon the body, and through it
upon the external world. But in the logical consistence of naturalism
there was implied not only a negative answer to this last question, but
also a denial of the causality of the psychical, even within itself and
its own domain. This is well illustrated in the figure of the cloud
shadows. In consciousness state follows upon state, a upon b, b upon c.
According to naturalism, b is not really the result of a, nor c of b, for
in that case there would be independence of phenomena, and distinctness of
laws in the psychical. But as all the states, a, b, and c, of the cloud
shadows, depend upon states _a_, _b_, and _c_, of the clouds themselves,
but do not themselves form a concatenation of causes, so all the states of
the mind depend upon those of the body, in which alone there is a true
chain of causes because they alone have true reality.

This is a complete distortion of the facts of the case. It would never be
possible to persuade oneself or any one else that the arm, for instance,
did not bend simply because we willed that it should. And it is still less
possible to doubt that there are sequences of causes within the psychical,
that in the world of thought and feeling, of desire and will, one thing
calls up another, awakes it, impels it onwards, and influences it. Indeed,
the mode of influence is peculiarly rich, subtle, and certain. Mental
images and experiences arouse joy or sorrow, admiration or repulsion. One
image calls up another, forces it to appear according to quite peculiar
laws, or may crowd it out. Feelings call up desires, desires lead to
determination. Good news actually causes joy, this is actually
strengthened to willing, and the new situation gives rise to actual
resolves. All this is so obvious and so unquestionable that no naturalism
can possibly prevail against it. It has also long been made the subject of
special investigation and carefully regulated experiment, and it is one of
the chief subjects of modern psychological science. And especially as
regards the different forms of “association of ideas,” the particular laws
of this psychical causality have been established.

It cannot be denied, however, that this psychology of association has
itself in a deeper sense certain dangers from the point of view of the
freedom of the mind, and it is apt to lead, not indeed to naturalistic
conceptions, but to views according to which the “soul” is reduced to the
level of a passive frame and stage, so to speak, for the exhibition of
mental mechanics and statics. “Ideas” or thoughts, or states of feelings,
are sometimes represented almost as actual little realities, which come
and go in accordance with their own laws of attraction and repulsion,
unite and separate again, by virtue of a kind of mental gravitation, move
and crowd one another, so that one must almost say “it thinks,” as one
says “it rains,” and not “the mind thinks” or “I think.” But more of this
later. This psychological orderliness is in sharp antagonism to pure
naturalism. It describes the laws of a sequence of causes, which have
nothing to do with the physical, chemical, or mechanical, and clearly
establishes the uniqueness, independence, and underivability of the
psychical as contrasted with the physical.

The individuality and incommensurability of this psychical causality shows
itself in another series of factors which make even the _form_ of the
psychical process quite distinctive, and produce phenomena which have no
parallel in the material sequences of the world, indeed, conflict with all
its fundamental laws. The great psychologists of to-day, Wundt in
particular, and James, have frequently emphasised these factors. We can
only briefly call attention to a few points, as, for instance, Wundt’s
theory of the creative resultants through which the psychical processes
show themselves to be quite outside of the scope of the laws of
equivalence which hold good in the physical. If, in the realm of the
corporeal, two components of energy, a and b, come together, they unite in
a common resultant c, which includes in part a new movement, in part
transformation into heat, but always in such a way that c remains equal to
a and b. But it is otherwise in the psychical. Here there occurs what may
be called an increase (and a qualitative change) of the psychical energy.
If we take the notes, c, e, and g, and call the sensation- and
perception-value of the individual notes x, y, z, when they come together,
the resulting sensation-value is by no means simply x + y + z, for a
“harmony” results of which the effect is not only greater than the mere
sum of x + y + z, but is _qualitatively_ different. This is true of all
domains of psychical experience. The parallels from mechanical operation
cannot be applied in any case. These only supply inadequate analogies and
symbols which never really represent the actual state of the case.

Let us take, for instance, a motive, _m_, that impels us towards a
particular action, and another, _n_, that hinders us. If these meet in us,
the result is not simply a weakening of the power of the one, and a
remaining motive of the strength of _m_ minus _n_. The meeting of the two
creates an entirely new and peculiar mental situation, which gives rise to
conflict and choice, and the resultant victorious motive is never under
any circumstances _m-n_, but may be a double or three-fold _m_ or _n_.
Thus, in the different aspects of psychical activity, there are factors
which make it impossible to compare these with other activities, remove
them outside of the scope of the law of the equivalence of cause and
effect, and prove that there is self-increase and growth on the part of
psychical energies. And all such phenomena lead us away from the
standpoint of any mere theory of association.

Activity of Consciousness.

Naturalism takes refuge in the doctrine of association, when it does not
attain anything with its first claims, and applies this theory in such a
way that it seems possible from this standpoint to interpret mental
processes as having an approximate resemblance to mechanically and
mathematically calculable phenomena. As in physics the molecules and
atoms, so here the smallest mental elements, the simplest units of feeling
are sought for, and from their relations of attraction and repulsion,
their groupings and movements, it is supposed that the whole mental world
may be constructed up to its highest contents, will, ideals, and
development of character. But even the analogy, the model which is
followed, and the fact that a model is followed at all, show that this
method is uncritical and not unprejudiced. What reason is there for
regarding occurrences in the realm of physics as a _norm_ for the
psychical? Why should one not rather start from the peculiar and very
striking differences between the two, from the primary and fundamental
fact, not indeed capable of explanation, but all the more worthy of
attention on that account, that there is an absolute difference between
physical occurrences and mental behaviour, between physical and mental
causality? These most primitive and simplest mental elements which are
supposed to float and have their being within the mind as in a kind of
spiritual ether are not atoms at all, but deeds, actions, performances.
The laws of the association of ideas are not the laws of a mental
chemistry, but laws of mental behaviour; very fixed and reliable laws, but
still having to do with modes of behaviour. Their separating and uniting,
their relations to one another, their grouping into unities, their
“syntheses,” are not automatic permutations and combinations, but express
the _activity_ of a thinking intelligence. Not even the simplest actual
synthesis comes about of itself, as psychologists have shown by a neat

[Illustration: Square _a_2, next to smaller square _b_2. Above them are
horizontal lines _a_ and _b_, the same lengths as the widths of the
squares below them. Caption: _a_ and _b_ only associated. Squares of _a_
and _b_ in juxtaposition.]

[Illustration: Square _c_2. Above it is horizontal line _c_, the same
length as the width of the square below it. Caption: _a_ and _b_ really
synthetised to _c_. Square of _a_ + _b_ as a true unity = _c_2.]

Given that, through some association, the image of the line _a_ calls up
that of the line _b_, and both are associatively ranged together, we have
still not made the real synthesis _a_ + _b_ = _c_. For to think of _a_ and
_b_ side by side is not the same thing as thinking of _c_, as we shall
readily see if we square them. The squares of _a_ and _b_ thought of
beside one another, that is, _a_2 and _b_2, are something quite different
from the square of the really synthetised _a_ and _b_, which is (_a_ +
_b_)2 = _a_2 + 2_ab_ + _b_2, or _c_ 2. This requires quite a new view, a
spontaneous synthesis, which is an action and not a mere experience.

The Ego.

It was customary in earlier psychology, as it still is in all apologetic
psychology, to regard the soul as a unified, immaterial, indivisible and
therefore indestructible _substance_, as a monad, which, as a unity
without parts, superior to its own capacities and the changes of its
states, is at all times one and the same subject. Many attempts have been
made since the time of Plotinus to accumulate proofs of this substantial
unity. We may leave this question untouched here, and need not even
inquire whether these definitions are not themselves things of the
external world employed as images and analogies and pushed too far. But
there are three factors which may be established in regard to the
psychical in spite of all naturalistic opposition; and those who have
attempted to find proofs for the traditional idea we have noted, have
usually really had these three in mind, and quite rightly so: they are,
self-consciousness, the unity of consciousness, and the consciousness of
the ego.


1. Our consciousness is not merely a knowledge of many individual things,
the possession of concrete and abstract, particular or general conceptions
and ideas, the cherishing of sensations, feelings and the like. We not
only know, but we know that we know, and we can ponder in thought over the
very fact that we are able thus to reflect in thought. Thought can turn
its attention upon itself, can establish that it takes place, and how it
runs its course, can reflect upon the forms in which it expresses itself,
its powers, its laws, possibilities, and limits, and can ponder over the
general nature of thought and the contingent individual nature of the
particular thinking subject. (The very possibility and preliminary
condition of moral freedom is implied in this.) How naturalism is to do
justice to this fact it is not easy to see. Even if it were possible that
the mental content was gained through mere experience, that comparisons,
syntheses, and abstractions were formed simply according to the laws of
association, and that these were sublimed and refined to general ideas,
and could grow into axioms of logic and of geometry, or crystallise into
necessary and axiomatic principles—none of which can happen—yet it would
always be a knowledge of something. But how this something could be given
to itself remains undiscoverable. The soul is a _tabula rasa_ and a mere
mirror, says this theory. But it would still require to show how the
silver layer behind the mirror began to see itself in the mirror.

The Unity of Consciousness.

2. The same holds true of the unity of consciousness, of which we are
directly convinced. It is quite inexplicable if consciousness is a
function of the extended and divisible physical substratum which is built
up of nerve-cells and nerve-fibres. And yet this unity is the fundamental
condition of our whole inner life.

Even the facts of association demonstrate it. Two images could not come
together, the one could not call up the other, if they were not possessed
in the same consciousness, and could unite in it. It is the preliminary
condition of every higher mode of thought, of every relating of things, of
every comparison and abstraction. No judgment can be formed, no conclusion
drawn without this. How could a predicate become associated with its
subject, or a principal clause with its subordinate clause, if they were
in separate consciousnesses, and how could the conclusion be drawn from

Consciousness of the Ego.

3. This unified self-consciousness is consciousness of the ego. It is only
by means of an artificial abstraction that we can leave out of account in
the consideration of processes of thought the peculiar factor of personal
relationship that absolutely attaches to every thought within us. There
are no thoughts in general that play their part of themselves alone. “It”
never “thinks” in me. On the contrary, all sensation, thought, and will
has in every human being a peculiar central relationship to which we refer
when we say “my idea,” “my sensation.” What the “I” is cannot be defined.
It is that through which the relation of all experiences and actions is
referred to a point, and through which the treasuring of them for good or
ill, the appreciation, the valuation of them is accomplished. And it plays
its part even in the case of cold and indifferent items of knowledge. For
instance, that twice two are four is not simply a perception, it is _my_
perception. Of the ego itself nothing more can be said than that it is the
thought of me as the subject of all experience, willing, and action, and
if we try to take hold of it nothing more than this formula remains. Yet
the fact that the ego is the subject of all this, gives conduct, will, and
experience that peculiar character which distinguishes them from mere
action and reaction. For it is directly certain that all the psychical
contents are not only co-existences in one consciousness but that they are
possessed by it.

Thus in summing up we have to say, that it is through the ego that all
psychical activities and experiences are centred and related, that the ego
is itself the point of relation, that it is the reason of the unity of
consciousness and of the possibility of self-consciousness, and that in
all this it is the most certain reality, without which the simplest
psychical life would be impossible. At the same time, it is difficult to
state what the “ego” is in itself, apart from the effects in which it
reveals itself.


The consciousness of the ego leads us naturally to the consciousness of
freedom. Freedom of the mind is no simple idea; it embraces various
contents which bear the relation of stages to one another, and each higher
stage presupposes the one below it. Freedom is, first of all, the word
which expresses that we are really agents, not mere points of transit for
phenomena foreign to ourselves, but starting-points of phenomena peculiar
to us, actual causes, beings who are able to initiate activity, to control
things and set them in motion. Here the whole question of freedom becomes
simply the question of the reality and causality of the will. Is the will
something really factual, or is it only the strange illusion to which
Spinoza, for instance, referred in his illustration of the flying stone?
It would be purely an illusion of that kind if materialism were the true
interpretation of things, and the psychical were nothing more than an
accompaniment of other “true” realities, and even if the doctrine of
psychical atoms we have already mentioned were correct.

This idea of freedom speedily rises to a higher plane. Freedom is always
freedom from something, in this case from a compulsion coming from
outside, and from things and circumstances foreign to us. In maintaining
freedom of the mind it is asserted that it can preserve its own nature and
laws in face of external compulsion or laws, and in face of the merely
psychological compulsion of the “lower courses of thought,” even from the
“half-natural” laws of the association of ideas. Thus “freedom” is
pre-eminently freedom of thought. And in speaking thus we are presupposing
that the mind has a nature of its own, distinguished even from the purely
psychological nature, and has a code of laws of its own, lying beyond the
scope of all natural laws, which psychical motives and physical conditions
may prevent it following, but which they can never suspend or pull down to
their own level.

“Der Mensch ist frei, und wär’ er in Ketten geboren.”

Here at last we arrive at what is so often exclusively, but erroneously,
included under the name of freedom, or “freedom of the will,” that is
practical freedom, the freedom to recognise moral laws and ideals, and to
form moral judgments against all psychological compulsion, and to will to
allow ourselves to be determined by these. From this question of moral
freedom we might finally pass to that with which it is usual over-hastily
to begin: the problem of so-called freedom of choice, of the “equilibrium”
of the will, a problem in which are centred all the purely theoretical
interests of the doctrine of the will in general, and ethical interests in
particular. The whole domain is so enormous that we cannot even attempt to
sketch it here. The general bearing of the whole can be made clearest at
the second stage, but we cannot entirely pass over the first.

In this inquiry into the problem of the will it is not necessary to
discuss whether we are able by it to bring about external effects,
movements, and changes in our bodies. We may postpone this question once
more. The most important part of the problem lies in the domain of the
psychical. To move an arm or a leg is a relatively unimportant function of
the will as compared with the deliberate adoption of a rule of conduct,
with inward self-discipline, self-culture, and the development of

That we “will,” and what it is to will, cannot really be demonstrated at
all, or defended against attacks. It simply _is_ so. It is a fundamental
psychical fact which can only be proved by being experienced. If there
were anywhere a will-less being, I could not prove to him that there is
such a thing as will, because I could never make clear to him what will
is. And the theories opposed to freedom of the will cannot be refuted in
any way except by simply saying that they are false. They do not describe
what really takes place in us. We do not find within ourselves either the
cloud-shadows or the play of psychical, minima already referred to, with
their crowding up of images, bringing some into prominence and displacing
them again while we remain passive—we find ourselves _willing_. These
theories should at least be able to explain whence came this marvellous
hallucination, this appearance of will in us, which must have its cause,
and they should also be able to say whence came the idea of the will.
Spinoza’s example of the stone, which seemed to itself to fly when it was
simply thrown, does not meet the facts of the case. If the thrown stone
had self-consciousness, it would certainly not say, “I am flying,” but
would merely wonder, “What has happened to me suddenly?”

We cannot demonstrate what will is, we can only make it clear to ourselves
by performing an act of will and observing ourselves in the doing of it.
Let us compare, for instance, a psychical state which we call “attention”
with another which we call “distraction.” In this last there is a stage
where the will rests. There is actually an uninhibited activity of “the
lower course of thought,” a disconnected “dreaming,” a confused automatic
movement of thoughts and feelings according to purely associative laws.
Then suddenly we pull ourselves together, rouse ourselves out of this
state of distraction. Something new comes into the course of our thoughts.
It is the will. Now there is control and definite guidance of our thoughts
and rejection of subsidiary association—ideas that thrust themselves upon
us. Particular thoughts can be selected, particular feelings or mental
contents kept in focus as long as we desire. In thus selecting and guiding
ideas, in keeping them in mind or letting them go, we see the will in

This brings us to freedom of thought. This lies in the fact, not merely
that we can think, but that we can and desire to think rightly, and that
we are able to measure our thoughts by the standard of “true” or “false.”
Naturalism is proud of the fact that it desires nothing more than to
search after truth. To this it is ready to sacrifice all expressions of
feeling or sentiment, and all prejudices. The truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth is its ideal, even if all pet ideas have to give way
before it. It usually saddles itself with the idea of the good and the
beautiful along with this “idea of truth,” but is resolved, since it must
soon see for itself that it is able to secure only a very doubtful basis
for these, to sacrifice them to truth if need be. This is worthy of
honour,(107) but it implies a curious self-deception. For if naturalism be
in the right, thought is not free, and if thought be not free there can be
no such thing as truth, for there can be no establishing of what truth is.

Let us attempt to make this plain in the following manner: According to
the naturalistic-psychological theory, the play of our thoughts, our
impressions of things and properties, their combination in judgments or in
“perceptions,” are dependent on physiological processes of the brain, and
therefore upon natural laws, or, according to some, on peculiar
attractions and repulsions among the impressions themselves, regulated by
the laws of association. If that and that only were the case, I should be
able to say that such a conception was present in my mind, or that this or
that thought had arisen in me, and I might perhaps be able to trace the
connection which made it necessary that it should arise at that particular
time. But every thought would be equally right. Or rather there could be
no question of right or wrong in the matter at all. I could not forbid any
thought to be there, could not compel it to make way for another, perhaps
exactly its opposite. Yet I do this continually. I never merely observe
what thoughts are in my own mind or in another’s. For I have a constant
ideal, a plumb-line according to which I measure, or can measure, every
train of thought. And I can compel others to apply this same plumb-line to
their thoughts. This plumb-line is logic. It is the unique law of the mind
itself which concerns itself about no law of nature or of association
whatsoever. And however mighty a flood of conceptions and associations may
at times pour through me in consequence of various confused physiological
states of excitement affecting the brain, or in consequence of the
fantastic dance of the associations of ideas, the ego is always able in
free thought to intervene in its own psychical experiences, and to test
which combinations of ideas have been logically thought out and are
therefore right, and which are wrong. It often enough refrains from
exercising this control, leaving the lower courses of thought free play.
Hence the mistakes in our thinking, the errors in judgment, the thousand
inconsistencies and self-deceptions. But the mind can do otherwise, can
defend itself from interruptions and extraneous influences by making use
of its freedom and of its power to follow its own laws and no others. It
is thus possible for us to have not only psychical experiences but
knowledge; only in this way can truth be reached, and error rejected. Thus
science can follow a sure course. Thus alone, for instance, could the
great edifice of geometry and arithmetic have been built up in its
indestructible certainty. The progress from axiom to theorem and to all
that follows is due to free thought, obeying the laws of inference and
demonstration, and entirely unconcerned about the laws of association or
the natural laws of the nervous agitations, the electric currents, and
other plays of energy which may go on in the brain at the same time. What
have the laws of the syllogism to do with the temporary states of tension
in the brain, which, if they had free course, would probably follow lines
very different from those of Euclid, and if they chanced once in a way to
follow the right lines from among the millions of possibilities, would
certainly soon turn to different ones, and could never examine them to see
whether they were right or not. Thus it is not any highly aspiring
emotional desire or any premature prejudice, but the solid old science of
logic that first and most determinedly shuts the door in face of the
claims of naturalism. If we combine this with what has already been said
on page 154, we shall see how dangerous it would be for naturalism to be
proved right in the dispute; for then it would be wholly wrong.

For, as it is only through the free, thinking mind that true and false can
be distinguished and brought into relation with things, so only through it
can we have an ideal of truth to be recognised and striven after, and that
spontaneous, pertinacious, searching, following, and discovering which
constitutes science as a whole and in detail. And in so far as naturalism
itself claims to be nothing more than an attempt towards this goal, it is
itself only possible on the basis of something which it denies.

Freedom of thought is also the most obvious example of that freedom of the
spirit in morally “willing,” which it is the business of ethical science
to teach and defend. As in the one case thought shows itself superior to
the physiologically or psychologically conditioned sequence of its
concepts, so the free spirit, in the uniqueness of its moral laws, reveals
itself as lord over all the motives, the lower feelings of pleasure and
pain that have their play within us. As in the one case it is free to
measure according to the criteria of true or false, and thus is able to
intervene in the sequence of its own conceptions, correcting and
confirming, so in the other it is able to estimate by the criteria of good
or bad. As in the one case it carries within it its own fundamental laws
as logic, so in the other the moral ideals and fundamental judgments which
arise out of its own being. And in both cases it is free from nature and
natural law, and capable of subordinating nature to its own rules, in so
far as it “wills,” and of becoming subordinate to nature—in erroneous
thinking and non-moral acting—in so far as it does not will.

Feeling, Individuality, Genius, and Mysticism.

The four things here mentioned are very closely associated with one
another, especially the second and third, as is easily perceived, but the
second is rooted in the first. And in the second and third there is
already to be discovered a factor which goes beyond the sphere of the
purely rational, and is no longer accessible to our comprehension, but
carries us over into the sphere of the fourth. This is really true even of
the phenomena of moral consciousness and moral “freedom.” In this quality,
and in the ethical ideal of “personality,” there is implied something that
is inaccessible to a purely rational consideration, and is directly
related to mystery and divination. (What is “personality”? We all feel it.
We respect it from the depths of our soul wherever we meet it. We bow down
before it unconditionally. But what it is no philosophy has ever yet been
able definitely to state. In seeking to comprehend it intuition and
feeling must always play the largest part.)


It is in the four attributes here emphasised that the true nature of mind
in its underivability and superiority to all nature first becomes clear.
All that we have so far considered under the name of mind is only
preliminary and leads up to this. All reality of external things is of
little account compared with that of the mind. It does not occur to any
one in practice to regard anything in the whole world as more real and
genuine than his own love and hate, fear and hope, his pain, from the
simplest discomfort due to a wound to the pangs of conscience and the
gnawings of remorse—his pleasure, from the merest comfort to the highest
raptures of delight. This world of feeling is for us the meaning of all
existence. The more we plunge ourselves into it, the deeper are the
intricacies and mysteries it reveals. At every point underivable and
unintelligible in terms of physiological processes, it reveals itself from
stage to stage as more deeply and wholly unique in its relations,
interactions, and processes, and grows farther and farther beyond the
laboured and insufficient schemes and formulas under which science desires
to range all psychical phenomena.


It is especially in “feeling” that what we call individuality has its
roots. The individual really means the “indivisible,” and in the strict
sense of the word need mean nothing more than the ego, and the unity of
consciousness of which we have already spoken. But through a change in the
meaning of the word we have come to mean much more than that by it. This
individuality forces itself most distinctly upon our attention in regard
to prominent and distinguished persons. It is the particular determination
of their psychical nature that marks them out so distinctly, and it often
rather escapes analysis and characterisation than is attained by it.
“Individuum est ineffabile.” It can only be grasped intuitively and by
experience. And people of a non-reflective mood are usually more
successful in understanding it than those who reflect and analyse. It
requires “fine feeling,” which knows exactly how it stands towards the
person in question, which yet can seldom give any definite account of his
characteristics. Individuality usually meets us most obviously in
exceptional men, and we are apt to contrast these with ordinary men. But
on closer examination we see that this difference is only one of degree.
“Individuality” in a less marked manner belongs to them all, and where it
exists it is a distinctly original thing, which cannot be derived from its
antecedents. No psyche is simply derivable from other psyches. What a
child receives from its parents by “heredity” are factors which, taken
together, amount to more than the mere sum of them. The synthesis of these
is at once the creation of something new and peculiar, and what has been
handed down is merely the building material. This can be felt in an
intensified and striking degree in regard to “pronounced individuality,”
but careful study will disclose the fact that there are no men quite
alike. This kind of “creative synthesis,” that is, the underivability of
the individual, was the element of truth in the mythologies of
“creationism” held by the Church fathers, or in the theory of the
“pre-existence of the soul” maintained by Plato and others.

And from this point of view we must safeguard what has already been said
in regard to the culture and gradual development of our psychical inner
nature. It is true that the “soul” does not spring up ready-made in the
developing body, lying dormant in it, and only requiring to waken up
gradually. It really becomes. But the becoming is a self-realisation. It
is not true that it is put together and built up bit by bit by experience,
so that a different being might develop if the experiences were different.
It is undoubtedly dependent upon experience, impressions, and
circumstances, and without these its development would be impossible. But
these impressions act as a stimulus, developing only what is previously
inherent. They do not themselves create anything. A characteristic
predetermination restricts the development to comparatively narrow limits.
And this is identical with the individuality itself. A man may turn out
very different according to circumstances, education, influences. But he
would nevertheless recognise “himself” under any circumstances. He will
never become anything of which he had not the possibility within him from
the very beginning, any more than the rose will become a violet if it is
nurtured with a different kind of manure.


We cannot venture to say much about genius and the mystery of it. In it
and its creative power something of the spirit, the nature of the spirit,
seems to look up at us, as we might think of it in itself and apart from
the limits of existence in time and space. It is usually most obvious and
most accessible to us in the domain of art. But it has its place too in
the realm of science. And it is most of all genius, and therefore most
inaccessible to us ordinary mortals, in the domain of religion.


Even “pronounced individuality” “has an element of mysticism” in it—of the
non-rational, which we feel the more distinctly the more decidedly we
reject all attempts to make it rational again through crude or subtle
mythologies. This is much more true of genius, artistic insight, and
inspiration. But these are much too delicate to be exposed to the
buffeting of controversy, much more so the dark and mysterious boundary
region in the life of the human spirit which we know under the name of
mysticism in the true sense, without inverted commas. It is not a subject
that is adapted for systematic treatment. Where it has been subjected to
it, everything becomes crude and repulsive, a mere caricature of pure
mysticism like the recrudescent occultism of to-day. Therefore it is
enough simply to call the attention of the sympathetic reader to it and
then to pass it by. In face of the witness borne to it by all that is
finest and deepest in history, especially in the history of religion,
naturalism is powerless.

Mind and Spirit. The Human and the Animal Soul.

What is the relation between the human and the animal mind? This has
always been a vital question in the conflict between naturalism and the
religious outlook. And as in the whole problem of the psychical so here
the interest on both sides has been mainly concentrated on the question of
“mortality” or “immortality.” Man is immortal because he has a soul.
Animals “have no souls.” “Animals also have souls, differing only in
degree but not in substantial nature from the soul of man: as they are
mortal, man must be so too.” “Animals have minds: the merely psychical
passes away with the body. But man has spirit in addition. It is
imperishable.” These and many other assertions were made on one side or
the other. And both sides made precisely the same mistake: they made the
belief in the immortality of our true nature dependent upon a proof that
the soul has a physical “substantial nature,” which is to be regarded as
an indestructible substance, a kind of spiritual atom. And on the other
hand they overlooked the gist of the whole matter, the true
starting-point, which cannot be overlooked if the religious outlook is not
to be brought into discredit. It is undoubtedly a fundamental postulate,
and one which the religious outlook cannot give up, that the human spirit
is more than all creatures, and is in quite a different order from stars,
plants, and animals. But absolutely the first necessity from the point of
view of the religious outlook is to establish the incomparable value of
the human spirit; the question of its “substantial nature” is in itself a
matter of entire indifference. The religious outlook observes that man can
will good and can pray, and no other creature can do this. And it sees
that this makes the difference between two worlds. Whether the bodily and
mental physics in both these worlds is the same or different, is to it a
matter rather of curiosity than of importance.

What occurs or does not occur within the animal mind is, as a matter of
fact, wholly hidden from us. We have no way of determining this except by
analogy with ourselves, and therefore our idea of it is necessarily
anthropomorphic. And apologists are undoubtedly right when they maintain
that this is far too much the case. To reach a more unprejudiced attitude
towards the customary anthropomorphisation of animals, it is profitable to
study Wundt’s lectures on “The Human and the Animal Mind” (see especially
Lecture XX.). Perhaps it is true that, notwithstanding all the
much-praised cleverness, intelligence and teachableness of elephants,
dogs, and chimpanzees, they are incapable of forming “general ideas,”
“rules,” and “laws,” of forming judgments in the strict sense, and
constructive syllogisms, that they have only associations of ideas, and
expectations of similar experience, but no thinking in conceptual terms,
and cannot perceive anything general or necessary, that they recognise _à
posteriori_ but not _à priori_, as Leibnitz supposed, and that they form
only perceptual inferences, not judgments from experience. But it is not
easy to see that this contributes anything of importance to our problem.
It does not even help us in regard to the interesting question of a
physical guarantee for the indestructibility of the soul. For even if the
psychical acts of animals were fewer and less important than they are
admitted to be, they have certainly sensations, images, feelings,
pleasure, pain, and desire. All these are of a psychical nature,
immaterial, and underivable from the material. And it is difficult to see,
for instance, why the forming of judgments should be regarded as more
durable and indestructible than sensation and desire. The difference lies
higher than this,—not in the fact that man has a few “capacities” more
than the animal, but in the difference in principle, that the psychical in
man can be developed to spirit, and that this is impossible anywhere else.
The very example that naturalism loves to cite in its own favour makes its
error clear. It asks whether the difference, let us say, between a Fuegian
and one of the higher mammals such as an ape, is not much less than that
between a Fuegian and a European. This sounds obvious, if we measure
simply by habits, morals, and possibly also the content of feeling and
imagination in a “savage” as we find him. And yet it is obviously false. I
can _train_ a young ape or an elephant, can teach it to open wine-bottles
and perform tricks. But I can _educate_ the child of the savage, can
develop in him a mental life equal in fineness, depth, and energy,
frequently more than equal, to that of the average European, as the
mission to the Eskimos and to the Fuegians proves, and as Darwin frankly
admitted. Psychical capacity is nothing more than raw material. It is in
the possibility of raising this to the level of spirit, of using the raw
material to its purpose, that the absolute difference, the impassable gulf
between man and animals lies.

Even in animals there is a primitive thinking, rising above the level of
blind instinct. But it can neither be schooled, nor is it capable of
developing even the crudest beginnings of science. Even the animal has a
sensory satisfaction in colour, form and tone (not nearly so much,
however, as the theory of sexual selection requires us to suppose). But
art, even the most rudimentary self-expression of the spirit upon this
basis, is wholly sealed to it. Even the animal possesses strong altruistic
instincts, impulses towards companionship, pairing, and caring for its
young, and some have seen in this the beginnings of morality. But morality
is a matter of the spirit, which begins with the idea of duty and rises to
the recognition of an ideal of life. Nowhere else do we see so directly
and emphatically the incomparability of the natural-psychical and the
spiritual as in the idea of duty and an ideal of life, although the
contrast is equally great at all points of the spiritual life.

Finally and highest of all, we have the capacity of the human spirit to
rise to religion and the greatest heights of feeling. In science and art,
in morality and religion, the spirit possesses itself. And as such it is a
unique and strange guest in this world, absolutely incomparable with
anything beneath or around it. It may, perhaps, be true that the psychical
difference between the ape and man is smaller than that between the ape
and unicellular organisms (though we really can know nothing about that).
But nowhere in the animal world does the psychical overstep the limits of
purely natural existence, of striving after and being prompted by the
directly and purely natural ends of a vegetative and animal instinctive
life, physical pleasure, self-preservation, and the maintenance of the

And there is more than this. However different the psychical equipment may
be at different animal stages, it has one thing in common in them all, it
is absolutely limited to what is given it by nature. An animal species may
last for a million years. But it has no history. It is and remains the
same history-less natural product. In this respect the animal is not a
step in advance of the stone or the crystal. The only thing it can achieve
is to express more or less perfectly the character of the species. This is
the utmost height of its capacity. But for man this is only the
starting-point, and the really human begins just there. What is implicit
in him as _homo sapiens_, a member of a zoological order, is nothing more
than the natural basis upon which, in human and individual history, he may
build up an entirely unique and new creation, an upper story: the world
and life of the spirit.

It is also erroneous to regard the gradual development of the psychical
capacities at the different levels of animal evolution as the development
of and preparation for the human spirit. It is not the spirit, but the raw
material of it, that is thus being prepared and developed. It is as if, in
the history of colour manufacture, an “evolution” of colour were taking
place. The quality of the colour gradually becomes better and better. Each
generation learns to make it purer and more brilliant. But the painting
which is painted with the most brilliant colour cannot be regarded as a
link in the evolutionary sequence, and is certainly not the crown and
culmination of the pigment; the latter is only the gradual perfecting of a
necessary preliminary condition.

It is only of secondary interest to point out the immense leaps in the
evolution of colour and colour-technique, and especially the vast
difference between the last stage and the one before it, or, to drop the
metaphor, the enormous psychological differences between the animal and
the human mind.

There is no doubt that an apologetic which interests itself in such
matters would find abundant opportunity for work, and could find a
powerful argument against a too hasty naturalism in the differences
between animal and human psychical capacities, which have been recognised
much more sanely and clearly through recent investigation than they
usually were in earlier times. But the question has no special interest
for us here.


In as far as man is endowed with a capacity for spiritual life and
spiritual possession, he is likewise destined for personality. This
includes and designates everything that expresses the peculiar dignity of
human nature. Personality is a word which gives us an inward thrill. It
expresses what is most individual in us, what is set before us, our
highest task and the inmost tendency of our being. What is personality?
Certainly something which is only a rudiment in us at birth, and is not
then realised, and at the same time an ideal which we feel more or less
indistinctly, but without being able to outline it clearly. To exhaust the
idea as far as possible is the task of ethical science. But one thing at
any rate we can affirm about it with certainty: it is absolutely bounded
off from the whole world and all existence as a self-contained and
independent world in itself. The more we become persons, the more clearly,
definitely, and indissolubly we raise ourselves with our spiritual life
and spiritual possessions out of all the currents of natural phenomena,
the more do we cease to be mere modes of a general existence and happening
that flows about us, and in which we would otherwise float with vaguely
defined outlines. A microcosm forms itself in contradistinction to the
macrocosm, and a unity, a monad, arises, in regard to which there is now
warrant for inquiring into its duration and immortality as compared with
the stream of general becoming and passing away. For what does it matter
to religion whether, in addition to physical indivisible atoms, there are
spiritual ones which, by reason of their simplicity, are indestructible?
But that the unities which we call personalities are superior to all the
manifoldness and diversity of the world, that they are not fleeting
fortuitous formations among the many which evolution is always giving rise
to and breaking down again, but that they are the aim and meaning of all
existence, and that as such they are above the common lot of all that has
only a transient meaning and a temporal worth—to inquire into all this and
to affirm it is religion itself.


The independence and underivability of the psychical, the incomparability
of its uniformities with those of mechanical or physico-chemical laws, has
proved itself so clear and incontrovertible, notwithstanding all the
distortions of naturalism, that it is now regarded as a self-evident fact,
not only among philosophers and epistemologists, and technical
psychologists, but for the last decade even among all thinking men, and
“materialism” is now an obsolete position. It was too crude and too
contrary to all experience to define the relation between physical and
mental, as if the latter were a mere secretion of the former, although a
very subtle one, or a mere epi-phenomenon of it, in such a way that all
reality and effectiveness was on the side of the physical.

In place of this, another theory has become widespread, which claims to
define the relation of the two series of phenomena better and more
adequately: the theory of psychophysical parallelism. It is not new. There
are occasional indications of it even in Aristotle’s psychology. It was
suggested by Descartes in his automaton theory, by the occasionalists in
their parable of the two watches running in exact agreement; it was
developed by Spinoza and Leibnitz, and refined by the idealistic
philosophers, by Schopenhauer, Fechner, and the modern psychologists. The
form in which it is most prevalent now is that given to it by Spinoza, and
he is usually referred to in connection with it. Its general tenor is as
follows: The physical cannot be referred back to the psychical, nor the
psychical to the physical. Both orders of phenomena run side by side as
parallels that never separate. Both represent a concatenation of causes
complete in itself, that is never broken, or interrupted, or completed.
And in both there is real causality. Thought really causes thoughts and
feelings. Movement really causes movements. But the one series is always
strictly correlated with the other, and corresponds with it. And thus all
existence is double, and man is an obvious illustration of this. To every
thought, feeling, or exercise of will there corresponds some excitement,
movement or change in the body. I will: my arm moves. Subtle nervous
processes run their course in my brain, and I think. That I will has its
sufficient reasons, its causes lie entirely in the preceding state of my
mind, in motives of feeling, in ideas which again have their efficient
causes in a previous psychical condition, and so on. And that my arm moves
has its efficient cause in the stored-up energies of the muscle-substance,
in the stimulus and impulse conveyed by the motor nerve from the brain.
And these conditions have their purely physiological causes and reasons
again in preceding purely physiological states and processes. (It goes
without saying that a mechanical theory of life is the necessary
presupposition of this parallelistic theory.) But both sets of processes
correspond exactly one to another, and the first is only the inner aspect
of the second, and the second the outer aspect of the first. Thus it is
quite true that my arm moves when I will. But in reality it is quite as
true to say that when my arm moves I will. But we must not substitute
“because” for “when.” This theory must maintain, and does maintain, that
even the most abstract and subtle ideas, the deepest processes of
consciousness, have some corresponding bodily processes, either in the
brain or in the nervous substance generally, and, on the other hand, that
no physical process is without this psychical inwardness. The result is
that this inwardness and soul are attributed also to the purely material
world, the world of “dead” matter. In this way it is believed that
everything gets its due; the thorough mechanical explicability of bodily
phenomena, and the law of the conservation of energy and of matter, and,
on the other hand, very decisively also, the independence and uniqueness
of law which can no longer be denied to the psychical. And from this
latter standpoint sharp protests are raised against all materialistic
distortions. The only thing denied is the old idea of the “influxus
physicus,” the idea, that is, that mind can operate beyond itself and take
effect on the physical world, and conversely the physical world upon it.
This again is regarded as a breach of the law of the conservation of
energy. For if the bodily affects consciousness, then at a given moment a
certain amount of energy must be transformed into something that is not
energy. And if consciousness affects the bodily, a process of movement
must suddenly occur, for which no previous equivalent of energy can be

This standpoint is most impressively set forth in Paulsen’s widely read
“Introduction to Philosophy.” The same ideas form the central feature in
the work of Fechner, which is having such a marked renaissance to-day.

It seems as though all higher estimates of spirit, even the religious
estimate, could quite well rest upon this basis. For full scope is here
given to the idea that mind and the mental sciences have their own
particular field. God, as the absolute all-consciousness and
self-consciousness, comprehending within Himself all individual
consciousness, is thought of as the eternal correlate of this universe in
space. And the theory has room also for a belief in immortality. Of all
imaginative attempts to make the idea of immortality clear and possible,
undoubtedly that of Fechner is the grandest and most effective. And it,
too, is based entirely upon the idea of parallelism. (Yet as a matter of
fact it could be shown that neither mortality nor immortality really fit
into the scheme of this conception.)

Though its main features are very similar as set forth by its various
champions, this theory differs according to the way in which this
astonishing and mysterious co-ordination, this parallelism itself, is
explained. How is it that “thought” and “extension” can correspond to one

The answer may be either naïvely dogmatic, that this is one of the great
riddles of the universe, and that we must simply take it for granted.
Others declare with Spinoza that the two series of phenomena are only the
two sides of one and the same fundamental being and happening, which may
be designated as _natura sive deus_, and that what is inwardly unified
expresses itself outwardly in these two forms of being. But because both
sides, thought and extension, are only expressions of one and the same
fundamental substance, they correspond exactly to one another. The best
illustration of this is Fechner’s simile of the curved line. It is concave
on one side, convex on the other, and thus entirely different on the two
sides. But at every point the concavity corresponds exactly to the
convexity. And this is possible because the two are the inner and the
outer aspects of the same line.

Others, again, go back to the fundamental ideas of critical idealism, and
declare the whole extended world accessible to the senses and the
mechanical-physical nexus of cause and phenomena, to be simply the form of
appearance in which the fundamentally spiritual existence presents itself
to our senses. Body, movement, physiological processes, are all nothing
more than the will, to speak with Fichte and Schopenhauer, or the idea, or
the spirit itself, which appears thus to sensory beings. Other theories,
some of them new, are also put forward.

No Parallelism.

For a long time it seemed as if the theory of parallelism was to gain
general acceptance. One might write a whole history of the gradually
increasing criticisms of, and reactions from the academic theories which
had become almost canonical. But we may here confine ourselves to the most
general of the objections to the parallelistic theory. They apply to the
general idea of parallelism itself, and affect the different standpoints
of the parallelists in different degrees. The theory in no way corresponds
to what we find in ourselves from direct experience. It is only with the
greatest difficulty that we can convince ourselves that our arm moves only
when and not because we will. The consciousness of being, through the
will, the actual cause of our own bodily movements is so energetic and
direct and certain, that it maintains its sway in spite of all objections,
and confuses the argument even of the parallelists themselves. Usually
after they have laid the foundations of a purely parallelistic theory,
they abandon it again as quickly as possible, and revert to the
expressions and images of ordinary thought. Indeed we have no clearer and
more certain example of causality in general than in our own capacity for
controlling changes in our own bodies. Further, a very fatal addition and
burdensome accessory of the parallelistic theory is involved in the two
corollaries it has above and beneath it. On the one hand there is the
necessity for attributing soul to everything. These mythologies of
atom-souls, molecule-souls, this hatred and love which are the inner
aspects even of the simple facts of attraction and repulsion among the
elements, fit better into the nature-philosophy of Empedocles and
Anaxagoras than into ours. The main support, indeed the sole support, of
this position is that this world of the infinitely little cannot be
brought under control as far as its “soul” is concerned. Thus we can
impute “a soul” to it without danger. On the other hand, there is a
difficulty which made itself felt even in regard to Spinoza’s system. All
bodily processes must have psychical processes corresponding to them, said
Spinoza. Conversely, all ideas in their turn must have bodily processes.
To the system including all bodily processes corresponds the sum-total of
psychical processes. This sum-total we call the soul. And in its entirety
it is the _idea corporis_. If “soul” were really nothing more than this,
the theory of parallelism might be right. But it is more than this. It
rises above itself, and becomes also the _idea ideæ_; it is
self-consciousness and the consciousness of the ego; it makes its own
thought and the laws of it, its feelings and their intensity—its
experiences in short—a subject of thought. How does this fit in with
parallelism? Wundt himself, the most notable modern champion of
parallelism, admits and defines these limits of the parallelistic theory
on both sides.

Furthermore, the theory of parallelism, notwithstanding its opposition to
materialism, must presuppose that localisation of psychical processes of
which we have already spoken, and to which all naturalism appeals with so
much emphasis. Because of the fact that particular psychical functions
seem to be limited to a particular and definable area of the brain-cortex,
or to a spot which could be isolated on a particular convolution, it
seemed as if naturalism could prove that “soul” was obviously a function
of this particular organ or part of an organ. According to the theory of
parallelism this does not follow. It would assert: “What in one aspect
appears to be a psychical process, appears in another aspect to be a
definite physiological process of the brain.” Yet it is clear that in
order to gain support for the doctrine of mutual correspondence,
parallelism has also the same interest in such localisation. For this is
the only method by which it can empirically control its theory. But this
whole idea of localisation does not hold good to anything like the extent
to which the members of the naturalistic school are wont to assert that it
does. In regard to this point, too, there has been considerable
disillusioning in recent years. Perhaps all that can be said is, that
localisation of psychical processes is a fact analogous to the fact that
sight is associated with the optic nerves and hearing with the auditory
nerves. Progressive investigation leads more and more clearly to the
recognition of a fact which makes localisation comparatively unimportant,
namely, the vicarious functioning of different parts of the brain. In many
cases where this or that “centre” is injured, and rendered incapable of
function, or even extirpated, the corresponding part of the mind is by no
means destroyed along with it. At first the mind may suffer from “the
effect of shock” as the phrase runs, but gradually it may recover and the
same function may be transferred to another part of the brain, and there
be fulfilled sometimes less perfectly, sometimes quite as perfectly as
before. We had to deal with this fact of vicarious function in discussing
the general theory of life. It is one of the greatest difficulties in the
way of the mechanistic and materialistic theories. But it must give some
trouble to the parallelists too.

We need not speak of the wonderful duplication of all existence which
parallelism must establish, though it is difficult to evade the question
how a _natura sive deus_ could have come, so superfluously, to say the
same thing twice over. Superfluously, for since both are alike
self-contained and independent of one another, one can have no need of the

One objection, however, may be urged against both parallelism and
materialism, which makes them both impossible, and that is, automatism.
Both parallelism and materialism maintain that the sequence of physical
processes is complete in itself and can be explained in terms of itself.
_All_ physical processes! Not only the movements of the stars, the changes
in inanimate matter, the origin and evolution of the forms of life, but
also what we call actions, for instance the movements of our arms and our
legs, and the complicated processes affecting the breathing organs and
tongue, which we call “speech.” Every plant, every animal, every human
being must be as it is and where it is, must move and act, must perform
its functions, which we explain as due to love or hate, to fear or hope,
even if there were no such thing as sensation, will, idea, neither love
nor hate, fear nor hope. More than this, all that we call history,
building towns and destroying them, carrying on war and concluding peace,
uniting into states and holding national assemblies, going to school and
exercising mouth and tongue, argument, making books and forming letters,
writing Iliads, Bibles, and treatises on the soul or on free will, holding
psychological congresses and talking about parallelism;—all this must have
been done even if there had been no consciousness, no psychical activity
in any brain! This is the necessary consequence to which the theories of
parallelism and materialism lead. If it does not follow, then there was
from the outset no meaning in establishing them. But the monstrosity of
their corollary is fatal to them. It is idle to set up theories in which
it is impossible to believe.

There is another consideration that affects parallelism alone. Since the
theory credits each of the two series with a closed and sufficient causal
sequence, each of which excludes the other, it does away with causality
altogether. That the one line runs parallel with the other excludes the
idea that a unique system of laws prevails, determining the character and
course of each line. One of the two lines must certainly be dependent, and
one must lead. Otherwise there can be no distinctness of laws in either.
Let us recall our illustration of the cloud shadows once more; the
changing forms of the shadows correspond point for point with those of the
clouds only because they are entirely dependent upon them. We may
illustrate it in this way: a parallel may be drawn to an ellipse, it also
forms a closed curved line. But it is by no means again an ellipse, but is
an entirely dependent figure without any formula or law of its own.
Parallelism must make one of its lines the leading one, which is guided
and directed by an actual causal connection within itself. The other line
may then run parallel with this, but its course must certainly be
determined by the other. And as the line of corporeal processes, with its
inviolable nexus of sequences, is not easily broken, parallelism, after
many hard words against materialism, frequently returns to that again or
becomes inconsistent. But if one says that the two aspects of phenomena
are only the forms of one fundamental phenomenon, that means taking away
actual causality from both alike, and leaving only a temporal sequence.
For then the actually real is the hidden something that throws the
cloud-shadows to right and left. But in the sequence of shadows there is
no causal connection, only a series of states succeeding one another in
time, and this points to a causal connection elsewhere.

It is easy enough to find examples to prove that the mental in us
influences the bodily. But the most convincing, deepest and most
trustworthy of these are not the voluntary actions which are expressed in
bodily movements, nor even the passions and emotions, the joy which makes
our blood circulate more quickly, and the shame which brings a flush to
our foreheads, the suggestions which work through the mind towards the
reviving, vitalising or healing of the body, but the cold and simple
course of logical thought itself. Through logical thinking we have the
power to correct the course of our conceptions, to inhibit, modify, or
logically direct the natural course, as it would have been had it been
brought about by our preceding physiological and psychical states, if they
were dominant and uncontrolled. But if so, then we must also have the
power, especially if it be widely true that physiological states
correspond to psychical states, to influence, inhibit, modify the
nerve-processes in our brain, or to liberate entirely new ones, namely,
those that correspond to the corrected conceptions.

The law of the conservation of energy is here applied in as distorted a
sense as we detected before in regard to the general theory of life. And
what we said there holds good here also. That something which is in itself
not energetic should determine processes and directions of energy is
undoubtedly an absolute riddle. But to recognise this is less difficult
than to accept the impossibilities which mechanism and automatism offer us
here, even more pronouncedly than in regard to the theory of life. Perhaps
one of the familiar antinomies of Kant shows us the way, not, indeed, to
find the solution of the riddle, but to recognise, so to speak, its
geometrical position and associations. We have already seen that inquiry
into the causal conditions of processes lands us in contradictions of
thought, which show us that we can never really penetrate into the actual
state of the matter.

Perhaps we have here to do only with the obverse side of the problem dealt
with there. There the chain of conditions could not be finished because it
led on to infinity, where, however, it was required that it should be
complete. Here again the chain is incomplete. In the previous case a
solution is found through the naïve proceeding of simply breaking the
empirical connection of conditions and postulating beginnings in time. In
this case, the admission of an _influxus physicus_ transforms
consciousness almost unnoticed into a mechanically operative causality.
The proper attitude in both cases is a critical one. We must admit that we
cannot penetrate into the true state of the case, because the world is
deeper than our knowledge, we must reject parallelism as being, like the
_influxus physicus_, an unsatisfactory cutting of the critical knot, and
we must frankly recognise the incontrovertible fact, never indeed
seriously called in question, of the controlling power of the mind, even
over the material.

The Supremacy of Mind.

From the standpoint we have now reached we can look back once more on
those troublesome naturalistic insinuations as to the dependence of the
mind upon the body, which we have already considered. It is evident to us
all that our mental development and the fate of our inner life are closely
bound up with the states and changes of the body. And it did not need the
attacks and insinuations of naturalism to point this out. But the reasons
brought forward by naturalism are not convincing, and all the weighty
facts it adduces could be balanced by facts equally weighty on the other
side. We have already shown that the apparently dangerous doctrine of
localisation is far from being seriously prejudicial. But if the
dependence of the mind upon the body be great, that of the body upon the
mind is greater still. Even Kant wrote tersely and drily about “the power
of our mind through mere will to be master over our morbid feelings.” And
every one who has a will knows how much strict self-discipline and firm
willing can achieve even with a frail and wretched body, and handicapped
by exhaustion and weakness. Joy heals, care wastes away, and both may
kill. The influence which “blood” and “bile” or any other predisposition
may have upon temperament and character can be obviated or modified
through education, or transformed and guided into new channels through
strong psychical impressions and experiences, most of all by great
experiences in the domain of morals and religion. No one doubts the
reality of those great internal revolutions of which religion is well
aware, which arise purely from the mind, and are able to rid us of all
natural bonds and burdens. This mysterious region of the influence of the
mind in modifying bodily states or producing new ones is in these days
being more and more opened up. That grief can turn the hair grey and
disgust bring out eruptions on the skin has long been known. But new and
often marvellous facts are being continually added to our knowledge
through curious experiments with suggestion, hypnosis, and
auto-suggestion. And we are no longer far from believing that through
exaltations, forced states of mind associated with auto-suggestion, many
phenomena, such as “stigmata,” for instance, which have hitherto been over
hastily relegated to the domain of pious legend, may possibly have a
“scientific” background.

“The Unconscious”.

But one has a repugnance to descending into this strange region. And
religion, with its clear and lofty mood, can never have either taste for
or relationship with considerations which so easily take an “occult” turn.
Nor is its mysticism concerned with physiologies. But it is instructive
and noteworthy that the old idealistic faith, “It is the mind that builds
up the body for itself,” is becoming stronger again in all kinds of
philosophies and physiologies of “the unconscious,” as a reaction from the
onesidedness of the mechanistic theories, and that it draws its chief
support from the dependence of nervous and other bodily processes upon the
psychical, which is being continually brought into greater and greater
prominence. The moderate and luminous views of the younger Fichte, who
probably also first introduced the now current term “the unconscious,”
must be at least briefly mentioned. According to him, the impulse towards
the development of form which is inherent in everything living, and which
builds up the organism from the germ to the complete whole, by forcing the
chemical and physical processes into particular paths, is identical with
the psychical itself. In instincts, the unconscious purposive actions of
the lower animals in particular, he sees only a special mode of this at
first unconscious psychical nature, which, building up organ after organ,
makes use in doing so of all the physical laws and energies, and is at
first wholly immersed in purely physiological processes. It is only after
the body has been developed, and presents a relatively independent system
capable of performing the necessary functions of daily life, that it rises
beyond itself and gradually unfolds to conscious psychical life in
increasing self-realisation. Edward von Hartmann has attempted to apply
this principle of the unconscious as a principle of all cosmic existence.
And wherever, among the younger generation of biologists, one has broken
away from the fascinations of the mechanistic theory, he has usually
turned to “psychical” co-operating factors.

Is there Ageing of the Mind?

Naturalism is also only apparently right in asserting that the mind ages
with the body. To learn the answer which all idealism gives to this
comfortless theory, it is well to read Schleiermacher’s “Monologues,” and
especially the chapter “Youth and Age.” The arguments put forward by
naturalism, the blunting of the senses, the failing of the memory, are
well known. But here again there are luminous facts on the other side
which are much more true. It is no wonder that a mind ages if it has never
taken life seriously, never consolidated itself to individual and definite
being through education and self-culture, through a deepening of morality,
and has gained for itself no content of lasting worth. How could he do
otherwise than become poor, dull and lifeless, as the excitability of his
organ diminishes and its susceptibility to external impressions
disappears? But did Goethe become old? Did not Schleiermacher, frail and
ailing as he was by nature, prove the truth of what he wrote in his youth,
that there is no ageing of the mind?

The whole problem, in its highest aspects, is a question of will and
faith. If I know mind and the nature of mind, and believe in it, I believe
with Schleiermacher in eternal youth. If I do not believe in it, then I
have given away the best of all means for warding off old age. For the
mind can only hold itself erect while trusting in itself. And this is the
best argument in the whole business.

But even against the concrete special facts and the observable processes
of diminution of psychical powers, and of the disappearance of the whole
mental content, we could range other concrete and observable facts, which
present the whole problem in quite a different light from that in which
naturalism attempts to show it. They indicate that the matter is rather
one of the rusting of the instrument to which the mind is bound than an
actual decay of the mind itself, and that it is a withdrawing of the mind
within itself, comparable rather to sleep than to decay. The remarkable
power of calling up forgotten memories in hypnosis, the suddenly
re-awakening memory a few minutes before death, in which sometimes the
whole past life is unrolled with surprising clearness and detail, the
flaming up anew of a rusty mind in moments of great excitement, the great
clearing up of the mind before its departure, and many other facts of the
same nature, are rather to be regarded as signs that in reality the mind
never loses anything of what it has once experienced or possessed. It has
only become buried under the surface. It has been withdrawn from the
stage, but is stored up in safe treasure-chambers. And the whole stage may
suddenly become filled with it again.

The simile of an instrument and the master who plays upon it, which is
often used of the relation between body and mind, is in many respects a
very imperfect one; for the master does not develop with and in his
instrument. But in regard to the most oppressive arguments of naturalism,
the influence of disease, of old age, of mental disturbances due to brain
changes, the comparison serves our turn well enough, for undoubtedly the
master is dependent upon his instrument; upon an organ which is going more
and more out of tune, rusting, losing its pipes, his harmonies will become
poorer, more imperfect. And if we think of the association between the two
as further obstructed, the master becoming deaf, the stops confused, the
relation between the notes and pipes altered, then what may still live
within him in perfect and unclouded purity, and in undiminished richness,
may present itself outwardly as confused and unintelligible, may even find
only disconnected expression, and finally cease altogether; so that no
conclusion would be possible except that the master himself had become
different or poorer. The melancholy field of mental diseases perhaps
yields proofs against naturalism to an even greater degree than for it. It
is by no means the case that all mental diseases are invariably diseases
of the brain, for even more frequently they are real sicknesses of the
mind, which yield not to physical but to psychical remedies. And the fact
that the mind can be ill, is a sad but emphatic proof that it goes its own


It is in a faith in a Beyond, and in the immortality of our true being,
that what lies finely distributed through all religion sums itself up and
comes to full blossoming: the certainty that world and existence are
insufficient, and the strong desire to break through into the true being,
of which at the best we have here only a foretaste and intuition. The
doctrine of immortality stands by itself as a matter of great solemnity
and deep rapture. If it is to be talked about, both speaker and hearers
ought to be in an exalted mood. It is the conviction which, of all
religious convictions, can be least striven for consciously; it must well
forth from devotional personal experience of the spirit and its dignity,
and thus can maintain itself without, and indeed against much reasoning.
To educate and cultivate it in us requires a discipline of meditation, of
concentration, and of spiritual self-culture from within outwards. If we
understood better what it meant to “live in the spirit,” to develop the
receptivity, fineness, and depth of our inner life, to listen to and
cultivate what belongs to the spirit, to inform it with the worth and
content of religion and morality, and to integrate it in the unity and
completeness of a true personality, we should attain to the certainty that
personal spirit is the fundamental value and meaning of all the confused
play of evolution, and is to be estimated on quite a different scale from
all other being which is driven hither and thither in the stream of
Becoming and Passing away, having no meaning or value because of which it
must endure. And it would be well also if we understood better how to
listen with keener senses to our intuitions, to the direct
self-consciousness of the spirit in regard to itself, which sleeps in
every mind, but which few remark and fewer still interpret. Here, where
the gaze of self-examination reaches its horizon, and can only guess at
what lies beyond, but can no longer interpret it, lie the true motives and
reasons for our conviction of immortality. An apologetic cannot do more
than clear away obstacles, nor need it do much more than has hitherto been
done. It reminds us, as we have already seen, that the world which we know
and study, and which includes ourselves, does not show its true nature to
us; hidden depths lie behind appearances. And it gathers together and sums
up all the great reasons for the independence and underivability of the
spiritual as contrasted with the corporeal. The spiritual has revealed
itself to us as a reality in itself, which cannot be explained in terms of
the corporeal, and which has dominion over it. Its beginning and its end
are wholly unfathomable. There is no practical meaning in discussing its
“origin” or its “passing away,” as we do with regard to the corporeal.
Under certain corporeal conditions it is there, it simply appears. But it
does not arise out of them. And as it is not nothing, but an actual and
effective reality, it can neither have come out of nothing nor disappear
into nothing again. It appears out of the absolutely transcendental,
associates itself with corporeal processes, determines these and is
determined by them, and in its own time passes back from this world of
appearance to the transcendental again. It is like a great unknown sea,
that pours its waters into the configuration of the shore and withdraws
them again. But neither the flowing in nor the ebbing again is of nothing
or in nothing. Whether and how it retains the content, form, and structure
that it assumes in other spheres of animate and conscious nature, when it
retires into the transcendental again; or whether it dissolves and breaks
up into the universal we do not know; nor do we attribute everlastingness
to those individual forms of consciousness which we call animal souls. But
of the self-conscious, personal spirit religion knows that it is
everlasting. It knows this from its own sources. In its insight into the
underivability and autonomy of the spiritual it finds warrant and freedom
to maintain this knowledge as something apart from or even in contrast to
the general outlook on the world.


The world and nature are marvellous in their being, but they are not
“divine”! The formula “_natura sive deus_” is a monstrous misuse of the
word “_deus_,” if we are to use the words in the sense which history has
given to them. God is the Absolute Being, perfect, wholly independent,
resting in Himself, and necessary; nature is entirely contingent and
dependent, and at every point of it we are impelled to ask “Why?” God is
the immeasurable fulness of Being, nature is indeed diverse in the
manifoldness of her productions, but she is nevertheless limited, and her
possibilities are restricted within narrow limits. God is the
unrestrained, and everlasting omnipotence itself, and the perfect wisdom;
nature is indeed mighty enough in the attainment of her ends, but how
often is she obstructed, how often does she fail to reach them, and how
seldom does she do so perfectly and without mistakes? She shows wisdom,
indeed, cunning in her products, subtlety and daintiness, taste and
beauty, all these often in an overwhelming degree, yet just as often she
brings forth what is meaningless, contradictory and mutually hurtful,
traverses her own lines, and bewilders us by the brutality, the
thoughtlessness, and purposelessness, the crookedness, incompleteness, and
distortedness of her operations. And what is true of the world of external
nature is true in a far greater degree of the world of history. Nature is
not a god, but a demigod, says Aristotle. And on this, Pantheism with its
creed, “_natura sive deus_,” makes shipwreck. The words of this _credo_
are either a mere tautology, and “_deus_” is misused as a new name for
nature; or they are false. It is not possible to transfer to nature and
the world all the great ideas and feelings which the religious mind
cherishes under the name of “God.”

On the other hand, nature is really, as Aristotle said, δαιμονία, that is,
strange, mysterious, and marvellous, indicating God, and pointing, all
naturalism and superficial consideration notwithstanding, as we have seen,
to something outside of and beyond itself. Religion demands no more than
this. It does not insist upon finding a solution for all the riddles of
theoretical world-lore. It is not distressed because the course of nature
often seems to our eyes confused, and to our judgment contradictory and
unintelligible at a hundred places and in a hundred respects. On the
contrary, that this is the case is to religion in another aspect a strong
stimulus and corroboration. “The world is an odd fellow; may God soon make
an end of it,” said Luther, and thus gave a crude but truly religious
parallel to the words of Aristotle, ἡ γἀρ φύσις δαιμονία ἀλλ᾽ οὐ θεία,
(Aristot. “De Divin. in Somn.,” c. ii.). It is part of the very essence of
religion, as we have seen, to read in the pages of nature, insufficiency,
illusion, and perplexities, and to be made thereby impatient and desirous
of penetrating to the true nature of things. Religion does not claim to be
directly deducible out of a consideration of nature; it demands only the
right and freedom to interpret the world in its own way. And for this it
is sufficient that this world affords those hints and suggestions for its
convictions that we have seen it does afford. To form clear ideas in
regard to the actual relations of the infinite to the finite, and of God
to the world, and of what religion calls creation, preservation, and
eternal providence, self-revelation in the world and in history, is hardly
the task of religion at all, but rather pertains to our general
speculative instinct, which can only satisfy itself with the help of
imagination. Attempts of this kind have often been made. They are by no
means valueless, for even if no real knowledge can be gained by this
method, we may perhaps get an analogue of it which will help us to
understand existence and phenomena, and to define our position, as well as
to give at least provisional answers to many pressing questions (such, for
instance, as the problem of theodicy).

If we study the world unprejudiced by the naturalistic interpretation, or
having shaken ourselves free from it, we are most powerfully impressed by
one fundamental phenomenon in all existence: it is the fact of evolution.
It challenges attention and interpretation, and analogies quickly reveal
themselves which give something of the same trend to all such
interpretations. From stage to stage existence advances onwards, from the
world of large masses subject only to the laws of mechanics, to the
delicately complex play of the forces of development in growth and other
vital processes. The nature of the forces is revealed in ever higher
expression, and at the same time in ever more closely connected series of
stages. Even between the inorganic and the organic there is an
intermediate stage—crystal formation—which is no longer entirely of the
one, yet not of the other. And in the organic world evolution reveals
itself most clearly of all; from the crudest and simplest it presses
onwards to the most delicate and complex. In the corporeal as in the
psychical, in the whole as in each of its parts, there are ever higher
stages, sometimes far apart, sometimes close together. However we picture
to ourselves the way in which evolution accomplishes itself in time, we
can scarcely describe it without using such expressions as “nature
advances upwards step by step,” “it presses and strives upwards and
unfolds itself stage by stage.”

And it is with us as it was with Plato; we inform the world with a soul,
with a desire and endeavour which continually expresses itself in higher
and higher forms. And it is with us also as with Fichte; we speak of the
will which, unconscious of itself, pours itself forth in unconscious and
lifeless nature, and then on this foundation strives forward, expressing
its activity in ever higher developments, breaking forth in life,
sensation, and desire, and finally coming to itself in conscious existence
and will. The whole world seems to us a being which wills to become,
presses restlessly forward, and passes from the potential to the actual,
realising itself. And the height of its self-realisation is conscious,
willing life.

This outlook is lofty and significant, it supplies a guiding clue by which
the facts of life and nature can be arranged. The religious outlook, too,
when it wishes to indulge in speculation, can make use of this guiding
thread. It will then say: God established the world as “a will to
existence, to consciousness, to spirit.” He established it, not as
complete, but as becoming. He does not build it as a house, but plants it,
like a flower, in the seed, that it may grow, that it may struggle upwards
stage by stage to fuller existence, aspiring with toil and endeavour
towards the height where, in the image of the Creator, as a free and
reasonable spirit capable of personality, it may realise the aim of its
being. Thus the world is _of_ God, that is, its rudiments came from God,
and it is _to_ God, in the purpose of likeness to God. And it is imbued
with the breath of Godhead which moves in it and impels it onwards, with
the logos of the everlasting Zeus of whom Cleanthes sings, with the spirit
of Jehovah whom Isaiah and the Psalmist praise, and whom the poet of the
Creation figuratively paints; the divine breath is in everything that
lives, from grass to flower, from animal to man. But it is implanted as
becoming. And in regard to this, religion can say of the whole world what
it says of man. For man, too, is not given as a finished product, either
as regards the genus or the individual, but as a rudiment, with his
destiny to work out, in historical becoming, by realising what is inherent
in him. We call this freedom. And an adumbration of such freedom, which is
the aim of self-realisation, would help us to penetrate deeply into the
nature of things. Many riddles and apparent contradictions could be fitted
in with this view of things: the unity of the world, and yet the
gradations; the relationship of all living creatures, the unity of all
psychical life, and yet the uniqueness of the rational spirit; causal
concatenation, yet guidance by means of the highest ideas and purposes;
the tentativeness, illogicalness, and ineffectiveness of nature,
unconsciously pressing forward along uncertain paths, yet the directness
and purposefulness of the main lines of evolution in general. This
God-awakened will to be lies at the roots of the mysteries of development
in all living creatures, of the unconscious purposiveness of instinctive
action, of the gradually ascending development of psychical life and its
organ. Operating in crystals and plants purely as a formative impulse and
“entelechy,” it awakes in the bodies of animals more and more as “soul.”
Then it awakes fully in man, and in him, in an entirely new phase of real
free development, it builds itself up to spirit. It resembles a stream
whose waves flow casually and transiently in animal consciousness, and are
soon withdrawn again, to break forth anew at another place, in the
personal spirit, where they attain to permanent indissoluble form, since
they have now at last attained to self-realisation, and fulfilled the
purpose of all cosmic existence, the reflecting of the eternal personality
in the creature. But it is only in human history that what was prepared
for in natural evolution is completed.

The riddle of theodicy thus becomes easier, for what surrounds us in
nature and history has not come direct from the hand of eternal wisdom,
but is in the first place the product of the developing, striving world,
which only gradually and after many mistakes and failures works out what
is inherent in it as eternal idea and aim. We see and blame its mistakes,
for instance in our own human structure. We see the deficiencies in the
historical course of things. But when we find fault we do not see that
evolution and self-realisation and freedom are more worthy of praise than
ready-made existence incapable of independent action.

This principle of development, wherever it is regarded as “world-soul” or
as “will” or as the “unconscious,” is frequently, through pantheism and
the doctrine of immanence, made equivalent with the object of religion,
with God. This is an impossible undertaking. We cannot worship what only
reaches its full development in ourselves. But that we _can_ worship, and
that it is only in the feeling of complete dependence that the full depth
of what is developing within us to conscious life reveals itself, proves
better than anything else that God is above all “World-will.” It was more
than allegory when Plato in Timæus set the “eternal father and creator of
the world” above all soul and psyche. And it was religion that broke
through when Fichte in his little book, “Anweisung zum seeligen Leben,”
set being before becoming, and God above the creatures struggling towards
self-realisation. Religion knows in advance that this is so. And calm
reflection confirms it. All that we have already learnt of the dependence,
conditionedness, and contingent nature of the world is equally true of a
world “evolving itself” out of its potentiality, of a will to existence,
and of an unconscious realising itself. No flower can grow and develop
without being first implicit in the seed. Nothing can attain to
“actuality,” to realisation, that was not potentially implied in the
beginning. But who originated the seed of the world-flower? Who enclosed
within it the “tendencies,” the “rudiments” which realise themselves in
evolution? Invariably “the actual is before the potential” and Being
before Becoming. A world could only become if it were called to become by
an everlasting Being. God planting the world-flower that it might radiate
forth in its blossoms His own image and likeness, is an allegory which may
well symbolise for religion the relation between God and the world. And
thus it is possible to draw the outline of a religious outlook on the
world, into which the results of world-lore could well be fitted. This
frame was constructed by Plato on the basis of a religious study of
things, and after Plato it was first definitely outlined in Fichte’s too
much forgotten but unforgettable books “Bestimmung des Menschen” and
“Anweisung zum seeligen Leben,” and it is thus a new creation of the great
German idealism and its mighty faith. And it is not easy to see why it
should be abandoned, why we should give it up in favour of an irreligious,
semi-naturalistic outlook on the world.

One thing, however, must be kept constantly in mind: even such an
interpretation of the world as this is poetry, not knowledge. There is a
poetry of the will to live, of the unconscious, which is struggling
towards existence, but there is no philosophy. There are only analogies
and hints of what goes on at the foundations of the world. In particular,
the unconscious creative impulse in all living organisms, this “will”
towards form, its relationship with instinct and the relationship of
instinct to conscious psyche, afford us a step-ladder of illustrations,
and an illustration of the step-ladder of the “will towards existence,”
which invite us to overstep the bounds of our knowledge, and indulge in
our imagination. We can say nothing of pre-conscious consciousness and
will, we can at best only make guesses about them. We cannot think
definitely of a general world-will, which wills and aspires in individual
beings; we cannot picture to ourselves the emergence of the individual
“souls” of animals and man from a universal psyche. Imagination plays a
larger part here than clear thinking. And for our present purpose it must
be clearly borne in mind that religion does not require any speculative
construction of theories of the world. But “you shall know that it is your
imagination which creates the world for you.”(108) And if a speculative
construction be desired, it will always be most easily attained along
these lines, and will in this way come nearest to our modern knowledge of
nature. We must remember, too, that the objections which may be urged
against this form of speculation are equally applicable against any other.
For the origin of the individual psyche, the graduated series of its
forms, the development of one after the other, and of that of the child
from that of its parents, are riddles which cannot be solved by any
speculative thinking. Monadology, theories of the pre-existence of the
soul, creationism, or the current traducianism—which to-day, with its
partly or wholly materialistic basis, is just as naïve as the older—all
reveal equal darkness. But the speculation we have hinted at, if it gives
no explanation, at least supplies a framework for many questions which
attract us, and do so even from the point of view of religion: for
instance the collective, diffuse, and almost divisible nature of
consciousness in the lower stages, its increasing and ever more strict
centralisation, the natural relationship of the psychical in man to the
psychical in general, and yet its incommensurability and superiority to
all the world.

But let us once more turn from all the poetical and imaginative
illustrations of the relation of God to the world, which can at best be
only provisional, and only applicable at certain points, to the more
general aspect of the problem. Religion itself consists in this: believing
and experiencing that in time the Eternal, in the finite the Infinite, in
the world God is working, revealing Himself, and that in Him lies the
reason and cause of all being. For this it has names like creation,
providence, self-revelation of God in the world, and it lives by the
mysteries which are indicated under these names. The mysteries themselves
it recognises in vague or naïve forms of conception long before it
attempts any definite formulation. If dogmatics begin with the latter,
some form or other of the stiff and wooden doctrines of _concursus_, of
_influxus ordinarius_ and _extraordinarius_ usually develops with many
other subtleties, which are nothing more than attempts to formulate the
divine influence in finite terms, and to think of it as a force along with
other forces. Two series of causes are usually distinguished; the system
of causes and effects within the world, according to which everything
natural takes place, the “_causæ secundariæ_”; and in addition to these
the divine causality co-operating and influencing the others, ordering
them with gentle and delicate pressure, and guiding them towards their
true end, and which may also reveal itself as “_extraordinaria_” in
miracles and signs. This double operation is regarded as giving rise to
all phenomena, and in it consists guidance, dispensation, providence, and
natural revelation.

This kind of conception is extremely primitive, and is unfavourable to
religion itself, for in it mystery is done away with and arranged
according to rubric, and everything has become quite “simple.” Moreover,
this doctrine has a necessary tendency to turn into the dreaded “Deism.”
According to the deistic view, God made the world in the beginning, and
set the system of natural causes in motion, in such a way that no farther
assistance was given, and everything went on of itself. This theory is
incredibly profane, and strikes God out of the world, and nature, and
history at a single stroke, substituting for Him the course of a
well-arranged system of clockwork. But the former theory is a very
unsatisfactory and doubtful makeshift as compared with that of deism, for
it is impossible to see why, if God arranged these _causæ secundariæ_, He
should have made them so weak and ineffective that they need all these
ingenious _concursus_, _influxus_, _determinationes_, _gubernationes_, and
the like. Both theories are crude fabrications of the dogmatists, and they
have nothing left in them of the piety they were intended to protect, nor
do they become any better in this respect, however many attempts are made
to define them. Religion possesses, without the aid of any stilted and
artificial theories, all the things we have named above, and especially
and most directly the last of them, namely, the experience of the
revelation and communication of the Divine in the great developments and
movements of spiritual and religious history. And it finds its
corroboration and justification and freedom not by way of dogmatics but of
criticism. It is impossible to distinguish artificially two sets of
causes, and to give to the world what is alleged to be of the world, and
to God what is alleged to be of God. But it is permissible to point to the
insufficiency of our causal study in general, and to the limits of our
knowledge. Even when we have established it as a fact that all phenomena
are linked together in a chain of causes we are still far from having
discovered how things actually come to pass. Every qualitative effect and
change is entirely hidden from us as far as the cause of its coming about
and its real and inner nature are concerned. Every effect which in kind or
quantity goes beyond its cause (and we cannot make anything of the domain
of living forms, of the psychical and of history without these), shows us
that we are still only at the surface. Indeed, even mechanical action,
often alleged to be entirely intelligible, such as the transference or
transformation of energy, is, as we have seen, a complete riddle. In
addition, all causality runs its course in time, and therefore partakes of
all the defects and limitations of our views of time. And finally we are
guided by the Kantian antinomy regarding the conditions of what is
“given.” It destroys the charm of the “purely causal” point of view by
showing that this in itself cannot be made complete and is therefore
contradictory. Moreover, in the phenomena of life, and in the fact that
consciousness and will control our corporeal processes, and yet can hardly
be thought of as a cause “co-operating” with other causes, we found an
analogy, if a weak and obscure one, of the relation that a divine
teleology and governing of the world may bear to mundane phenomena. Thus
mystery remains in all its strength and is not replaced by the surrogate
of a too simple and shallow dogmatic theory. In confessing mystery and
resting content with it we are justified by reflection on the nature and
antinomy of our knowledge.

All this is true also of what religion means by creation. In the feeling
of complete humility, in its experience of absolute dependence and
conditionedness, the creature becomes conscious of itself as a creature,
and experiences with full clearness what it means to be a “creature” and
“created.” The dogmatic theory is here again only a surrogate of mystery.
And again critical self-reflection proves a better guide than any theory
of creation, which is quite in its place as a means of expression in
religious discourse and poetry, but is quite insufficient as true
knowledge. That we must but cannot think of this world either as beginning
or as not-beginning is the analogue in knowledge of what religion
experiences in mystery; and that this contingent and conditioned world is
founded in everlasting, necessary, true Being, is the analogue of what
religion possesses and knows through devout feeling, more directly and
clearly than by any thinking, of the relations of God to the world.


    1 This has been urged often enough even by scientific investigators.
      In such cases they have frequently been reproached for dragging
      miracles into nature when they call a halt in face of the
      “underivable” and the “mysterious.” This is a complete
      misunderstanding. With miracles and with the supernatural in the
      historical sense of these words, this mode of regarding nature has
      nothing whatever to do. It would be much more reasonable to maintain
      the converse: that there exists between supernatural ideas and the
      belief in the absolute explicability and rationalisation of nature a
      peculiar mutual relation and attraction. For, if we think out the
      relation clearly, we must see that all real and consistent belief in
      miracles demands as its most effective background the clearest
      possible explicability of nature. It pictures to itself two natures,
      so to speak: nature and supernature, and the latter of these
      interpolates itself into the former in the form of sudden and
      occasional interruptions; that is to say, as miracles. The purpose
      of miracles is to be recognised as such, as events absolutely
      different from the ordinary course of happening. And they are most
      likely thus to be recognised when nature itself is translucent and
      mathematical. Thus we find that supernaturalism quite readily
      accepts, and even insists upon a rationalistic explanation of
      nature. But this is quite incorrect. Nature is not so thoroughly
      rationalised and calculable as such a point of view would have us

      The really religious element in belief in miracles is that it, too,
      in its own way, is seeking after mystery, dependence and providence.
      It fails because it naïvely seeks for these in isolated and
      exceptional acts, which have no analogy to other phenomena. It
      regards these as arbitrary acts, and does so because it overlooks or
      underestimates the fact that they have to be reckoned with
      throughout the whole of nature.

    2 Not even after the scholastic manner of regarding eternity as a
      “nunc stans,” a stationary now, an everlasting present. “Present” is
      a moment in our own time, and an “everlasting” present is nonsense.

    3 “Reden über die Religion, an die Gebildeten unter ihren Verächtern.”
      Neu herausgegeben von R. Otto. 1906.

    4 Kgl. Preuss. Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1876.

    5 Some of these subsidiary factors are difficult to harmonise with the
      main principle of selection; they endanger it or it endangers them,
      as we shall see when we consider the controversies within the
      Darwinian camp.

    6 H. Friedmann, “Die Konvergenz der Organismen,” Berlin, 1904.

    7 It is somewhat confusing that even Weismann in his most recent work
      professes to give “Lectures on the Theory of Descent,” and in
      reality only assumes it, concerning himself with the Darwinian
      theory in the strict sense. The English translation is more
      correctly entitled “The Evolution Theory.”

_    8 Cf._ Wagner, “Zur gegenwärtigen Lage des Darwinismus.” “Die
      Umschau,” January, 1900.

    9 Eugen Dubois (Military Surgeon of the Dutch Army), “Pithecanthropus
      erectus, a man-like transition-form from Java.” Batavia. 1904.

   10 H. Friedenthal. “Ueber einen experimentellen Nachweis von
      Blutsverwandtschaft.” Archiv. f. Anatomie und Physiologie, 1900, p.

   11 Jena, 1904. Trans. “The Evolution Theory,” Arnold. London 1904.

   12 A defence of this very confident Darwinian point of view, for the
      benefit of non-scientific readers, will be found in the recent
      “Gemeinverständlichen darwinistischen Vorträgen und Abhandlungen,”
      by Plate, Simroth, Schmidt, and others. See also Ziegler’s “Ueber
      den derzcitigen Stand der Descendenzlehre in der Zoologie.”

   13 “Rassenbildung und Erblichkeit,” Festschrift für Bastian, p. 9.

   14 “Rassenbildung und Erblichkeit,” Festschrift für Bastian, p. 6.

   15 “Sammlung gemeinverständl. Vorträge, hrsg. v. Virchow und
      Holtzendorf,” Heft 96. “Menschen und Affenschädel,” Berlin, 1870.

   16 “Zeitschrift für Ethnologie,” 1882, p. 276.

   17 “Verh. Berlin anthropolog. Gesellschaft iv.” (1872), p. 132. It
      does, however, appear strange to the lay mind that it should have
      been only the pathological subjects of prehistoric times that had
      their remains preserved for our modern study.

_   18 Cf._ “Zeitschrift für Ethnologie,” 1895, pp. 78, 735.

_   19 Cf._ “Rassenbildung und Erblichkeit.” Festschrift für Bastian,

   20 See also “Descendenz und Pathologie.” Arch. f. path. Anat. a.
      Physiol., 1886; “Transformation und Abstammung.” Berliner Klin.
      Wochenschrift, 1893.

   21 First edition, Leipzig, 1887. A second edition and an English
      translation have since been published. See especially the discussion
      of the origin and history of species in the second volume.

   22 See English translation of Kerner’s Plant Life.

_   23 Cf._ a criticism of the book from the Darwinian point of view by
      Plate in Biologisches Centralblatt, 1901.

   24 That this points only to the fact of evolution, and not necessarily
      to actual descent, will be seen later on.

   25 First edition, 1899; now in a second edition.

   26 “Genealogie der Urzellen als Lösung des Descendenzproblems” (1872),
      and “Der Darwinismus und die Naturforschung Newtons und Cuviers”

   27 “Eine kritische Darstellung der modernen Entwicklungslehre,” Jena,

   28 Compare Darwin’s derivation of fishes from Tunicata because of the
      notochord which occurs in the tunicate larvæ.

   29 See Hertwig’s “Biological Problem of To-day.” London 1896.

   30 The justice of this prophecy has been meanwhile illustrated by the
      recent work of H. Friedmann, “Die Konvergenz der Organismen,”
      Berlin, 1904.

   31 If we wish to, we can even read the “biogenetic law” in Dante. See
      “Purgatory,” p. 26, where the embryo attains successively to the
      plant, animal and human stages:

      “Anima fatta la virtute attiva,
      Qual d’una _pianta_....

      Come fungo marino ...

      Ma come _d’animal_ divenga _fante_.”

      This is, of course, nothing else than Aristotle’s theory of
      evolution, done into terzarima, and corrected by St. Thomas.

      For the latest application of these views, even in relation to the
      “biogenetic fundamental law,” see the finely finished
      “Morpho-genetic Studies” of T. Garbowski (Jena, 1903): “The greater
      part of what is usually referred to the so-called fundamental
      biogenetic law depends on illusion, since all things undeveloped or
      imperfect must bear a greater or less resemblance one to another.”

_   32 I.e._, The occurrence of saltatory, transilient, or discontinuous
      variations or mutations.

_   33 I.e._, The emergence of a distinctively new pattern of

   34 See H. G. Bronn’s Appendix to his translation of Darwin’s “Origin of
      Species.” First German edition.

   35 Finally and comprehensively in the two volumes we have already
      mentioned, “Vorträge über die Deszendenztheorie,” Jena, 1902 (Eng.
      trans., London, 1904). “Natural selection depends essentially upon
      the cumulative augmentation of the most minute useful variations in
      the direction of their utility; only the useful is developed and
      increased, and great effects are brought about slowly through the
      summing up of many very minute steps.... But the philosophical
      significance of natural selection lies in the fact that it shows us
      how to explain the origin of useful, well-adapted structures purely
      by mechanical factors, and without having to fall back upon a
      directive principle.”

   36 If it were not white it would be observed by the seals, which would
      thus avoid being devoured by it. See Weismann, I., p. 70. (English
      edition, p. 65.)

   37 It is almost comical when Weismann, the champion of the purely
      naturalistic outlook, occasionally forgets his rôle altogether, and
      puts in a word for “chance,” or attempts to soften absolute
      predetermination. For if even a single wolf should destroy a stag
      “by chance,” or if a single “id” should “chance” to grow in a manner
      slightly different from that laid down for it by the compelling
      force of preceding and accompanying circumstances, the whole
      Darwinian edifice would be labour lost.

   38 See Darwin, “... chance variations. Unless such occur, natural
      selection can do nothing.”

   39 “Die Darwinsehe Theorie. Gemeinverständliche Vorlesungen über die
      Naturphilosophie der Gegenwart gehalten vor Studierenden aller
      Fakultäten,” Leipzig, 1903. This book is the continuation of the
      author’s “Deszendenztheorie.”

   40 Fleischmann’s book compares favourably with those of other
      naturalists, in that he does not contrast “Moses” and natural
      science, as is customary, but has a deeper knowledge of the modern
      view of Genesis I. than is usually found among naturalists, whether
      of the “positive” or “negative” standpoint.

   41 See also Wolff.

   42 See C.C. Coe, “Nature versus Natural Selection,” London, 1895.
      Perhaps the most comprehensive, many-sided, critical analysis of the
      theory of natural selection. See also Herbert Spencer, “The
      Inadequacy of Natural Selection,” 1893.

   43 Leipzig, 1888, 1897, 1901. In part translated as “Organic
      Evolution.” We are here mainly concerned with Vols. I. and III.
      Later on we shall have to discuss Vol. II.

   44 Wien, 1899.

   45 See Wettstein, “Neolamarckism,” Jena, 1902. See also Demoor,
      Massart, Vandervelde, “L’Evolution régressive en Biologie et
      Sociologie,” Paris, 1897. Bibliothèque scientific internationale,
      vol. lxxxv. This work is on the Lamarckian basis. It is original in
      applying Lamarckian principles to a theory of society.

   46 Two vols., Leipzig, 1901 and 1902.

   47 It remains open to question whether Eimer’s explanation is
      sufficient in all cases, even those of the exaggeratedly deceptive
      copies of leaves or bark, or the colour of the environment. It is
      certainly not the sorry explanation in terms of “Variation and
      Selection,” but that of a spontaneous imitation of the surroundings,
      that forces itself irresistibly upon us in this connection.

   48 Jena, 1892 and 1895.

   49 See Reinke, “Einleitung in die theoretische Biologie,” 1901,
      especially pp. 463 onwards on “Phylogenetisches Bildungspotential.”
      von Wettstein (On direct adaptation), “Neolamarkismus,” Jena, 1902.
      _Cf._ “Wissensch-Beiträge zum 15 Jahresberichte (1902) der Philos.
      Gesellschaft an der Universität zu Wien: Vorträge und Besprechungen
      über die Krisis der Darwinismus.” M. Kassowitz, “Allgemeine
      Biologie,” I. and II., 1899. O. Hertwig, “Entwicklung der Biologie
      im 19. Jahrhundert.” Wiesner, “Elemente der wissenschaftlichen
      Botanik.” (_cf._ especially III. “Biologie der Pflanzen”), and on p.
      288 the summary of propositions which are very similar to those
      formulated later by Korschinsky. (“Auf Grund des den Organismen
      innewohnenden Vervollkommnungstriebes.”)

   50 See the particularly beautiful and suggestive experiments of
      Haberlandt: “Experimentelle Hervorrufung eines neuen Organs.” In
      “Festschrift für Schwendener,” Berlin Borntraeger, 1899.

   51 See “Nature,” 1891, p. 441

   52 See “Nature,” 1891, p. 441.

   53 The variation-increment of the selection theory ought to be a
      differential. But in many cases it is not so. As for instance in
      symmetrical correlated variation, &c. In the struggle for existence
      it is usually not advantages of organisation which are decisive, but
      the chance advantages of situation, though these have no “selective”
      influence. The case of the tapeworm is illustrative.

      His work, “Die organischen Regulationen, Vorbereitungen zu einer
      Theorie des Lebens,” 1901, is a systematic survey of illustrations
      of the “autonomy” of vital processes. In his “Analytischen Theorie
      der organischen Entwicklung,” Leipzig, 1894, his special biological
      (“ontogenetic”) views are still in process of development. But even
      here his sharp rejection of Darwinism is complete (see VI., Par. 3,
      on “the absurd assumption of a contingent character of
      morphogenesis”). It is not for nothing that the book is dedicated to
      Wigand and C. F. von Baer. He says that in regard to development we
      must “picture to ourselves external agents acting as stimuli and
      achieving transformations which have the character, not analysable
      as to its causes, of being adapted to their end, that is, capable of
      life.” Incomplete, but very instructive too, are his discussions on
      the causal and the teleological outlook, the necessity for both, and
      the impossibility of eliminating the latter from the study of
      nature. In a series of subsequent works, Driesch has defined and
      strengthened this position, finally reaching the declaration:
      “Darwin belongs to history, just like that other curiosity of our
      century, the Hegelian philosophy. Both are variations on the theme,
      ‘How to lead a whole generation by the nose!’ ” (“Biolog.
      Zentralbl.” 1896, p. 16). We are concerned with Driesch more
      particularly in Chapter IX.

   54 See Driesch “Kritisches und Polemisches,” Biol. Zentrabl., 1902, p.
      187, Note 2.

   55 “Naturwissenschaftliche Wochenschrift,” xiv., p. 273.

   56 See § 70 and subsequent sections. Take, for instance, the
      sentences:—“Every production of material things and of their forms
      must be interpreted as possible in terms of purely mechanical laws,”
      and the contrast: “Some products of material nature cannot be
      interpreted as possible in terms of purely mechanical laws.”

   57 To Aristotle the “Soul” (ψυχὴ ϕυτική Psyche, phytike) was in the
      first place a purely biological principle. But by means of his
      elastic formula of Potentiality and Actuality he was able to make
      the transition to the psychological with apparent ease. The
      biological is to him in “potentiality” what sensation, impulse,
      imagination are in “realisation.” But the biological and the
      psychological are not related to one another as stages. Growth,
      form, development, &c., cannot be carried over through any
      “actualisatio” into sensation, consciousness and the like.

      An essentially different question is, whether the biological may not
      be not indeed derivable from the psychological—that would be the
      same mistake—but dependent on, and conditioned by it, just as we
      regard the voluntary moving and directing of the body as dependent
      on it. An imaginative interpretation of the world will always take
      this course.

   58 Of course all this still gives us no ground for drawing conclusions
      as to the correctness of the mechanistic theory, but only affords a
      reason for its power of persistence. Indeed, the very fact that, in
      investigating the problem of life, instinct directs us towards
      mechanical interpretations, should give added weight to the other
      fact, that among the ranks of naturalists themselves there
      constantly arise doubts and criticisms of the adequacy of this mode
      of interpretation, and that many of them go over more or less
      completely to the vitalistic point of view.

   59 H. Helmholtz, “Ueber die Erhaltung der Kraft, eine physikalische
      Abhandlung,” Berlin, 1847.

   60 Max Verworn, “Die Biogenhypothese,” Jena, 1903. _Cf._ criticisms by
      Czapek in the “Botanische Zeitung,” No. 2, 1903, and by Loeb in the
      “Biologisches Zentralblatt,” 1902.

   61 Berlin, 1900. Edited by R. du Bois-Reymond.

   62 Bütschli, “Untersuchungen über microscopische Schäume und das
      Protoplasma,” Leipzig, 1892. _Cf._ Berthold, “Studien zur

   63 Rhumbler, “Zur Mechanik des Gastrulationvorganges ...” in “Archiv.
      f. Entwicklungsmechanik,” Bd. 14.

   64 “Bewegung der lebendigen Substanz.” Jena, 1892.

   65 A short, very attractive description of these mechanical methods,
      and one which appeals particularly to us laymen because of its
      excellent illustrations, is Dreyer’s “Ziele und Wege biologischer
      Forschung” (Jena, 1892), especially the first part, “Die
      Flüssigkeitsmechanik als eine Grundlage der organischen Form- und
      Gerüst-Bildung.” The astonishing and fascinating forms of
      Radiolarian frameworks and “skeletons” (the artistic appreciation of
      which was made possible to a wider public by Haeckel’s “Kunstformen
      der Natur”) are here made the subject of mechanical explanations,
      which are certainly in a high degree plausible.

_   66 Cf._ Roux, “Archiv. fur Entwicklungsmechanik.” The name
      sufficiently indicates the scope.

   67 For a discussion of the difficulties and impossibilities of this
      theory see page 148 above.

   68 “Preformation oder Epigenesis?” Outlines of a theory of the
      development of organisms. Jena, 1894. (Part I. of “Zeit- und
      Streit-fragen der Biologie.”) Translated by P. Chalmers Mitchell,
      “The Biological Problem of To-day.”

   69 In his earlier period. Later he rejects both preformation and
      epigenesis, as mechanical distortions of vital processes.

   70 See also Lotze’s interesting article “Instinct” in the same work.

   71 Part II. of his “Zeit- und Streit-fragen der Biologie.”

   72 Second Edition, 1902.

   73 In Vol. II. p. 139. 1898.

   74 “General Physiology.” Translated by Lee. London. 1899. P. 170.

   75 As a remarkable instance and corroboration of this, we may refer to
      the ever-recurring, instinctive antipathy of deeply religious
      temperaments, from Augustine to Luther and Schleiermacher, to the
      Aristotelian mood and its conception of the world, and their
      sympathy with Plato’s (mostly and especially in their “Platonised”
      expressions). The clear-cut, luminous, conception of the world which
      expresses everything in terms of commensurable concepts is
      thoroughly Aristotelian. But it would be difficult to find a place
      in it for the peculiar element which lies at the root of all true
      devotional feeling, and which makes faith something more than the
      highest “reverence, love and trust.”

   76 “Arch. für pathol. Anatomie und Physiologie,” Bd. VIII. 1855.

   77 Vol. IX., 1856.

   78 The same is true even of crystals, “_omne crystallum e crystallo_.”

_   79 Cf._ “Ueber die Aufgabe der Naturwissenschaft,” Jena, 1876.
      “Naturwissenschaftliche Tatsachen und Probleme.” “Physiologie und
      Entwicklungslehre,” 1886, in the collection of the “Allgemeiner
      Vereins für Deutsche Literatur.” Also in the same collection, “Aus
      Natur- und Menschen-leben.”

   80 These ideas are not fully worked out, and they are disguised in
      poetic form—for instance, when even the play of flames is compared
      to vital processes. But if they be stripped of their poetic garb,
      they lead to the same conclusions to which one is always led when
      one approaches the problem unprejudiced by naturalistic or
      anthropomorphic preconceptions of the relation of the infinite to
      the finite, or the divine to the natural. If we exclude the
      materialistic or semi-materialistic position which regards
      teleological phenomena, vital processes, and even states of
      sensation and consciousness as the function of a “substance” or of
      matter, we can quite well speak of them as general “cosmo-organic”
      functions of universal being, meaning that they occur of necessity
      wherever the proper conditions exist. According to the doctrine of
      potentiality and actuality, this is to say that all possible stages
      of the higher and highest phenomena are _semper et ubique_
      potentially present in universal being, and that they become actual
      wherever the physical processes are far enough advanced to afford
      the necessary conditions.

      Preyer’s ideas have been revived of late, especially in the romantic
      form, as, for instance, in Willy Pastor’s “Lebensgeschichte der
      Erde” (“Leben und Wissen,” Vol. I., Leipzig, 1903). And in certain
      circles, characterised by a simultaneous veneration for and
      combination of modern natural science—Haeckel, Romanticism, Novalis
      and other antitheses—Fechner appears to have come to life again. The
      type of this group is W. Bölsche. Naturally enough, Pastor has
      turned his attention also to the recent views of Schroen in regard
      to crystallisation. The fact, _omne crystallum e crystallo_, like
      the corresponding fact, _omne vivum e vivo_, was long a barrier
      against mechanistic derivation. But Schroen draws a parallel between
      crystallisation and organic processes, so that the alleged clearness
      and obviousness of the inorganic can no longer be carried over—in
      the old fashion—into the realm of life, but, conversely, the mystery
      of life must be extended downwards, and continued into the

   81 Worthy of note and much cited is a somewhat indefinite essay on
      “Neovitalism,” by the Wurzburg pathologist, E. von Rindfleisch (in
      “Deutsche Medizinische Wochensehrift,” 1895, No. 38).

   82 Already given in detail in his “Lehrbuch der phys. und pathol.
      Chemie” (Second Edition, 1889), in the first chapter, “Vitalism and
      Mechanism.” In the meantime a fifth revised and enlarged edition of
      Bunge’s book has appeared as a “Lehrbuch der Physiologie des
      Menschen” (Leipzig, 1901), The relevant early essays appear here
      again under the title “Idealism and Mechanism.” The arguments are
      the same. It is often supposed that it is merely a question of time,
      and that in the long run we must succeed in finding proofs that the
      whole process of life is only a complex process of movement; but the
      history of physiology shows that the contrary is the case. All the
      processes which can be explained mechanically are those which are
      not vital phenomena at all. It is in activity that the riddle of
      life lies. The solution of this riddle is looked for, more decidedly
      than before but still somewhat vaguely, in the “idealism” of
      self-consciousness and its implications, “_Physiologus nemo nisi
      psychologus_.” These views have been also stated in a separate
      lecture: G. Bunge, “Vitalismus und Mechanismus,” (Leipzig, 1886).

   83 “Allgemeine Biologie” (2 vols.), Vienna, 1899.

   84 Jena, 1903.

_   85 Cf._ especially Verworn’s example of the manufacture of sulphuric
      acid. See what we have previously said on the “second line” of
      mechanistic theory, along which Neumeister’s thought mainly moves.
      See especially p. 198. As regards the “fifth line,” the problem of
      the development of form in its present phase, there is an
      instructive short essay by Fr. Merkel (Nachrichten der K.
      Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften Göttingen. Geschäftl. Mitt. 1897,
      Heft 2)—“Welche Kräfte wirken gestaltend auf den Körper der Menschen
      und Tiere?” This essay avoids, obviously intentionally, the
      shibboleths of controversy. The mechanical point of view and the
      play with mechanical analogies and models are abruptly dismissed.
      “If things, which were in themselves susceptible of mechanical
      explanations, occur in the absence of the mechanical antecedent
      conditions, then we must seek for other forces to enable us to
      understand them.” And quite calmly a return is made to the old,
      simple conception of a “regulative” and a “formative force,”
      inherent as a capacity _sui generis_ within the “energids,” the
      really living parts of the cell. The cell-energid carries within it
      the “pattern” of the organisation, and the partial or perfect
      “capacity” (“Fertigkeit”) for producing and reproducing the whole
      organism. But these two forces “make use of” the physico-chemical
      forces as tools to work out details. So to describe the state of the
      case is not of course a solution of the problem; it is only a
      figurative formulation of it. But that, at the present day, we can
      and must return to doing this if we are to describe things simply
      and as they actually occur, is precisely what is most instructive in
      the matter.

   86 “Beiträge zur Kritik der Darwinschen Lehre,” which was first
      published in the “Biologisches Zentralblatt,” 1898.

   87 Leipzig, 1892.

   88 Before Wigand’s larger works there had appeared F. Delpino:
      “Applicazione della Teoria Darwinia ai Fiori ed agli Insetti
      Visitatori dei Fiori” (Bull. della Societa Entomologica Ital.,
      Florence 1870). He says: “Un principio intrinsico, reagente, finchè
      dura la vita, contro le influenze estrinseche ossia contro gli
      agenti chimici e fisici.”

   89 “Elemente der Wissenschaftlichen Botanik. Biologie der Pflanzen.”

   90 “Lehrbuch der Biologie der Pflanzen.” Stuttgart, 1895.

_   91 Cf._ Cohn, “Beiträge zur Biologie der Pflanzen,” vii. 407, See
      especially the concluding chapter, “Einiges über Functionen der
      einzelnen Zellorgane.” From Zoology we may cite E. Teichmann’s
      investigation, “Ueber die Beziehung zwischen Astrosphären und
      Furchen.” “Experimentelle Untersuchungen am Seeigelei” (“Archiv. f.
      Entw. Mech.” xvi. 2, 1903). This paper contains no references to
      “psychical phenomena,” “power,” or “will,” and we cannot but approve
      of this in technical research. But it is pointed out that the
      mechanistic interpretation of the detailed processes of development
      has definite limitations, and we are referred to “fundamental
      characters of living matter which we must take for granted.”

      This is even more decidedly the case in Tad. Garbowski’s beautiful
      “Morphogenetische Studien, als Beitrag zur Methodologie zoologischer
      Forschung.” These belong to the line of thought followed by Driesch
      and Wolff, who are both frequently and approvingly quoted, and they
      afford an excellent instance of that mood of dissatisfaction with
      and protest against the “dogmas” of descent, selection and
      phylogeny, which is observable in many quarters among the younger
      generation of investigators. Garbowski vigorously combats Haeckel’s
      theories of development, especially “the fundamental biogenetic law,
      and the Gastræa theory.” He criticises “mechanistic” interpretations
      of the development of the embryo, which “treat the living being
      morphologically, as if the matter were one of vesicles, cylinders
      and plates, and not of vital units”: and he does not look with
      favour on “artificial amoebæ,” which can move, creep, and do
      everything except live. The ideal of biology is of course always a
      science with laws and equations, but the key to these will not be
      found in mechanics. Garbowski’s studies may be highly recommended as
      giving a sharp and vivid impression of the modern anti-mechanistic
      tendencies observable even in technical research.

   92 Trans. by Levinsohn. “Beilage zur Allgemeinen Zeitung,” Munich,
      1898, No. 166.

   93 Bütschli, _op. cit._, p. 200.

   94 “The Monist,” 1899, p. 179.

_   95 Cf._ “Entwicklung der Biologie in 19. Jahrhundert” (“Naturforscher
      Versammlung,” 1900), and “Zeit- und Streit-fragen der Biologie,”
      1894-7, especially Part II., “Mechanik und Zoologie.”

   96 “Die Organismen und ihr Ursprung,” published in “Nord und Süd,”
      xviii., p. 201 _seq._—“Die Welt als Tat,” Berlin 1899, since then in
      second edition.—“Einleitung in die theoretische Biologie,” 1901.—And
      “Der Ursprung des Lebens auf der Erde,” in the “Türmer-Jahrbuch,”

_   97 Cf._, the discussion by A. Drews in the “Preuss. Jahrbuch,”
      October, 1902, p. 101, a review of Reinke’s “Einleitung in die
      theoretische Biologie.”

   98 Of all the bad Greek zoology has produced, “Ontogenesis” is probably
      the worst. The Becoming of the Being! The word is used in contrast
      to Phylogenesis, the becoming of the race or of the species, and it
      denotes the development of the individual.

_   99 Cf._ p. 130. Excellent observations on “purpose.” If two or more
      chains of causes meet, we call it “chance;” if they do so constantly
      and in a typical manner, we call it “purpose.”

  100 “Biolog. Centralbl.,” 1896, p. 363.

  101 “Die Lokalisation (= spatial determination) morphogenetischer
      Vorgänge, ein Beweis vitalistischen Geschehens,” 1899 (in “Archiv.
      f. Entw.-Mechanik,” viii., 1, and separately published), and “Die
      organischen Regulationen: Vorbereitungen zu einer Theorie des
      Lebens,” Leipzig, 1901. Also “Die ‘Seele’ als elementarer
      Natur-factor,” (studies on the movements of organisms), Leipzig,
      1903. He gives a general review of his own evolution in the
      “Süddeutsche Monatshefte,” January 1904, under the title “Die
      Selbständigkeit der Biologie und ihre Probleme.”

  102 In the “Biol. Zentralbl.,” June 1903, p. 427, Driesch is criticised
      by Moszkowski, who rejects Driesch’s teleological standpoint. But
      even this criticism shows us how far the untenability of the
      mechanistic position has been recognised. It is based upon a
      somewhat vague dynamism, which admits that the physico-chemical and
      all other mechanical interpretations have been destructively
      criticised by Driesch, and recognises entelechy (“ἐν ἑαυτῷ τὸ τέλος
      ἔχον”). An entelechy without τέλος!

  103 “Vorfragen der Biologie,” 1899. “Die ‘Ueberwindung des Mechanismus’
      in der Biologie.” “Biolog. Zentralbl.,” 1901, p. 130.

_  104 Cf._ Tad. Garbowski, “Morphogenetische Studien,” p. 167. The
      illustration here employed of the arc and the “explanation of form
      by form” would be a good criticism of many of Albrecht’s statements.

  105 Schneider has expounded his physiological and morphological view in
      his “Comparative Histology.” In “Vitalismus” (“Elementare
      Lebensfunctionen,” Vienna, 1903) he sums up his vitalistic views. It
      is a comprehensive work which goes deeper than others of its class
      into the detailed description and analysis of the intimate phenomena
      of life. Indeed it almost amounts to an independent biology. But the
      most essential vital problems, the development of form,
      regeneration, and inheritance, to which Driesch gives the fullest
      consideration, are all too briefly treated. In Chapters XI. and XII.
      the question of vitalism expands into a far-reaching discussion of
      the general outlook upon nature. We need not here concern ourselves
      with his more general views. Schneider must be regarded as a
      representative of the most modern tendency of “Psychism,” which,
      stimulated by Mach, Avenarius, and the school of
      “immanence-philosophy,” finds expression among the younger
      physiologists and biologists, from Schneider to Driesch, Verworn,
      Albrecht, and others. To overthrow “materialism” and “realism,” they
      utilise, with impetuous delight, the ancient self-evident idea that
      what is given to us is sensation. They confuse and identify such
      opposites as Kant and Berkeley, and their own position with that of
      “solipsism.” This outlook is still vague and vacillating, and it may
      perhaps compel epistemology to return on its old path from the
      sophists to Plato, from Hume to Kant. In Schneider’s case, however,
      the thin stream of this new sensualism is intermingled with so many
      intuitions and perceptions of the deeper nature of knowledge that
      one is now curious to know how this strange mixture of
      semi-materialism, idealism, solipsism, and a priorism is to make the
      transition from its present extremely labile phase to a condition of
      stable equilibrium. One fears lest sooner or later a reaction
      against the contortions of this empiricism and psychism should lead
      to a modern rehabilitation of mysticism or occultism. (_Cf._ p. 295

      In an essay on “Vitalism” in the “Preuss. Jahrbuch,” Aug. 1903, p.
      276, Schneider has supplemented his previous work.

  106 If the protest of natural science against these means no more than
      that they should be excluded as inaccessible to scientific
      understanding, from the domain of its investigation, but not from
      reality, it is perhaps fully justified in its methods.

  107 Though somewhat inconsequent, since at any rate the enthusiasm for
      truth could not result from a naturalistic, but only from some kind
      of idealistic basis.

  108 Schleiermacher, “Reden über die Religion,” ii.

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